UPDATE 3/27: Generous parents, grandparents, neighbors and businesses sent food and monetary contributions ranging from $5 to $1,000 to help fund the program. Other people stepped forward to organize food drives and to volunteer to pack the Beach Bags.
One couple, David and Joann Faggert, wrote a check for the entire amount to ensure that no child would face hunger merely for the fact school wasn't in session.
VIRGINIA BEACH -- The Virginia Beach City Public Schools Beach Bags program, which provides food for students on weekends and holiday breaks, is running out of items and needs community help to replenish its shelves.
The Beach Bags program began as a stopgap measure to provide meals to elementary-age students who receive free and reduced meals during school hours but often lacked food at home after-school hours.
Teachers discreetly place food donated to the Beach Bags program into the backpacks of deserving children who carry the food home.
Each week, more than 200 children receive food in their backpacks on Fridays to take home for the weekend. The children are identified for support by the division's Office of School Social Work.
In the five years since the Beach Bags program began, more than 25,475 bags of food have been donated, packed and distributed to children who might otherwise go hungry.
"The critical need for Beach Bags continues to grow. As requests for weekly support increase, we find ourselves unable to meet the demand," said Eileen Cox, director of the school division's Office of Community Engagement which oversees the program. "We are dangerously close to having to turn families away with nothing."
Community organizations, individuals and school division employees donate food and money to the program.
Each Beach Bag contains the following:
2 — individual cereal boxes or bowls
2 — 8 oz. shelf stable milk individual cartons
2 — shelf-stable main course items (ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, beef stew, chicken and dumplings, tuna/chunk chicken, tuna helper, macaroni and cheese, chunky soups)
2 — 4 oz. or larger fruit cups and/or 100% juice boxes
2 — snack items such as Granola bars, Pop tarts, cereal bars, cheese/peanut butter sandwich crackers, pudding cups, raisins, pretzels and trail mix.
Individuals and organizations interested in helping the Beach Bags program can obtain more information by contacting the Office of Community Engagement at 757-263-1936.