Most metro Atlanta students spent the last few days of fall semester dreaming of what they might find under the Christmas tree come Dec. 25, be it a bike, video game system or perhaps an old-fashioned doll or toy.
But some left school wondering how much food they’d have to eat during the long winter break, without school meals to fill in the gap.
It’s a shocking reality for students and even adults in more affluent areas, and that’s where Blessings in a Backpack comes in. Through the organization’s local chapter, some students spent part of their school holiday party packing up bags of food for the less fortunate.
“These young children are learning how to give in a simple way,” said Janice White, who, along with Melissa Arch, helps organize the program at Garrison Mill Elementary School in east Cobb. “All you have to do is pick up one extra item when you go to the grocery store.”
The program runs year-round, with Garrison sending food to students at Brumby Elementary, Esther Jackson Elementary, Holcomb Bridge Middle, Vickery Mill Elementary, Roswell North Elementary and, soon, Sedalia Park Elementary.
Blessings in a Backpack works with social workers and counselors to identify children in need and then regularly provides them with food to eat at home during weekends and other school breaks.
The children also created cards for the recipients to open along with the food. Fifth-grader Libby Roberts wrote, “Have an awesome day, you are a very kind person” on hers.
At Garrison Mill, there’s another element of meaning for Blessings in a Backpack. Fifth-grade teacher Krissy Longyear helped launch the program at the school before losing a battle with leukemia last summer. In her honor, the school decided to expand the program, and she was on everyone’s minds as food was packed up ahead of winter break.
Her daughter, University of South Carolina sophomore Hannah Longyear, stopped by as students packed backpacks at the school on Dec. 19. She described it as a perfect tribute to her mother’s work.
“This is a continuation of her legacy,” she said.
This is the third installment of Holiday Heroes, a seasonal AJC series that focuses on philanthropic efforts of local Atlantans. Each story captures the charitable impact meant to change communities for the greater good. To read more of the series, visit myAJC.com/living.