Daniel Bartha looked at the boxes of cereal in the prepared bags ready for taking, and then at other varieties of cereal on a table nearby. Can I get this other cereal, the 8-year-old asked?
No problem, said Becky Dailey, a volunteer with SixFourteen Church, Masury, who let Daniel choose a cereal more to his liking.
Daniel’s sister, 6-year-old Mackenzie, already had her bag, and her patience with her brother was wearing thin.
“Let’s go, I’m hungry,” she said.
During the school year, the Backpack Program at Brookfield schools gives certain kids a backpack full of food to get them through the weekend, until they return to school, where breakfast and lunch is available. As of the last school year, about 65 percent of elementary and middle school students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, and 43 percent of the high school students were eligible.
For many families, the need for this food supplement doesn’t go away in the summer, said SixFourteenLead Pastor Jared Woodward. That’s why the church initiated the Summer Backpack Program, which is run by Nikki and Dennis Jervis.
“We know that there is a huge need in the community,” Woodward said. “There’s a lot of kids on the free and reduced lunch,and there are kids who rely on the food that they get” from the Backpack program.
Volunteers stock shopping bags with soup; canned beans, vegetables, chicken and fish; peanut butter; apple sauce; fruit snacks; ramen noodles; and crackers, and families can come to the church at 1382 Broadway Avenue between noon and 12:30 p.m. Sundays to pick up bags.
There are no eligibility requirements, and the program is funded by donations from church members and members of the public, and proceeds from a spaghetti dinner, Woodward said.
“We’re kind of opening it up to anyone who would need it,” he said.
The program has seen 15 to 20 families, and wants to expand to providing household items such as toothpaste, toilet paper and shampoo, and eventually open a food pantry, church officials said.
The church has had assistance from Brookfield school administrators and Brookfield United Methodist Church, which participates in the school-year Backpack Program, in setting up the summer program, and Woodward said his church wants to work with the Methodist church during the school year.
SixFourteen also is in talks with Second Harvest Food Bank, which supplies food to pantries in the area.
“They have a lot of rules and regulations,” Woodward said. “If we had waited for approval from them, we probably would not have gotten it off the ground.”
Anyone who would like to receive food or help out can call the church at 330-619-5067.
Top photo: Volunteer Becky Dailey hands Daniel Bartha a bag of food at SixFourteen Church, Masury, which is running the Summer Backpack Program. Daniel’s sister, Mackenzie, is at left, and volunteer Theresa Swartz is at right.