SALISBURY, Md. - A free or reduced school lunch goes a long way for some children, but what happens when school closes for the holidays?
The answer can be found in the backpacks of several students at Beaver Run Elementary School.
They're stuffed like stockings and ready to head home for the Christmas holiday, filled with food that will help curb little appetites.
"It's an excellent program, the kids look forward to it," Amanda Jamison said. As the school social worker and organizer for the year-long backpack program, Jamison sees the help snacks give her students at home. It's supported by the Maryland Foodbank throughout the year, and this week, the program got a huge boost.
"We got more donations than ever expected to send home with the kiddos for Christmas," Jamison said.
Nearly 2,000 food items arrived Thursday, all gifts from Salisbury University. The school's faculty and staff rallied around the cause that became very personal.
"Knowing which particular school it was going to gave it an identity," said Nikki Dyer, coordinator of Student Disability Support Services at S. U. and coordinator of the food donation.
"As they were dropping off, little containers that could be opened by children, I think that touched a lot of hearts."
Dyer is on the Professional Development committee at the university, and she challenged other faculty staff to collect enough food for 40 backpacks. She says the response was overwhelming, with students pitching in too. The school is now able to fill the backpacks twice, before the next distribution in January.
"We got things we don't normally get,like extra ramen noodles, applesauce, pop tarts... things that will really sustain the kids over the next weekend or so," Jamison said.
More than fifty students get a backpack twice a month at Beaver Run, a small portion of supplemental nutrition in Wicomico county. There are currently 8,600 kids - or 61 percent of public school students - who are filling up on free or reduced lunch.
Thanks to the extra supply from Salisbury, students got a little something extra this week. They're going home with a huge shopping bag full of snacks to last them and their families for the next few days. And there were even supplies to make a little holiday meal.
"Being home for the holidays should not mean being hungry for the holidays."
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