Program feeds needy children

Published 10:15 am Thursday, March 24, 2016

Betty Ann Williams and others have set out to provide food security to Brookhaven students.

“I did go to our minister Tom Atkins last summer and told him I’d seen some information about this project,” Williams told the Brookhaven Servitium Club Wednesday. “He was in favor of it, so we put together a team. We kind of coordinate and make decisions. We have wonderful people in our church — as well as some out in the community — who volunteer to help us. We pack bags every Thursday. When we started this, we chose to go with this national group, Blessings in a Backpack.”

Betty Ann Williams

Betty Ann Williams

Blessings in a Backpack is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2013, it spent about 60 percent of its $6.6 million in revenue directly on food — about $4 million. Only 10 percent — $658,189 — went to salaries and benefits for employees and administrators. However, Williams said that the overhead costs are handled through corporate donations, and 100 percent of individual donations go to feeding children.

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“We do take donations to them, and they take care of it. So we have a card we use that works just like a credit card,” she said.

While the initiative in Brookhaven started with First United Methodist Church, Williams said BIB isn’t tied to the church, and they welcome volunteers and donations throughout the community.

“The average cost is $80 to $100 to sponsor a child for one school year,” Williams said. “So it’s a very economical program. We don’t want any child to be hungry. If we can reach out and do something to help, that’s our mission.”

Williams said it’s been a learning experience the whole way.

“We started out thinking that it might be best to target the youngest children first. That’s what we did. The schools identify the students they feel are in need on a daily basis.”

BIB then buys food to hand out to the students, usually on Thursdays. While the students may qualify for free and reduced lunch, that doesn’t cover weekends and breaks, where the students will often go hungry.

“Hopefully, it helps with their ability to learn. If they come in to school hungry Monday morning, it hurts their behavior.”

Williams said they haven’t gotten much feedback from students and don’t expect to.

“They always say thank you.”

Williams said donations should be sent to the BIB lockbox at P.O. Box 950291 Louisville, KY, 40295. Checks should be made to Blessings in a Backpack, and the memo should note that the money is for Brookhaven schools.