|Contact: Yolanda Jones-Howell|
|Date: 3/20/14||Phone: 757.263.1202|
|News Release No. 052||Fax: 757.263.1010|
|Program that provides food for students
facing empty shelves
|The Virginia Beach City Public Schools(VBCPS) 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.”
Cox added that school division funds are not used to purchase food for Beach Bags. Community organizations, individuals and school division employees donate food and money to the program.
Each Beach Bag contains the following:
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.
Did you know that there are children right here in Virginia Beach who do not have enough to eat? It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. This is especially the case during weekends and school vacations when children cannot take advantage of available school breakfasts and lunches. In addition, the tough economic times we face as a country have created a situation where some families must choose between keeping their home and buying food for their family. Being deprived of food on a regular basis is called “food insecurity.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as households that are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet basic needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources.” When the guardian of a child has to choose between food and other necessities, e.g., having electricity shut off because they don’t have enough money, it is an indicator of food insecurity. It is impossible to predict the impact that being deprived of food has on a child’s development, but parents and teachers agree that even short-term hunger has an immediate impact on student alertness, behavior and academic achievement.
Fortunately, Virginia Beach City Public Schools Parent Connection is addressing this critical need through the Beach Bags program. Beach Bags provides needy students with necessary food items over the weekend. Food is packed by volunteers and distributed to participating schools. The Beach Bags are actually packed in brown paper (or plastic) bags and placed in student backpacks at the end of the day (so they are not embarrassed or stigmatized for having been selected).
Current funding, however, only allows for distributions to take place every other weekend. We would like very much to expand the program by providing food to identified students every week, adding to the number of students served, and expanding to additional schools.
Schools and the community can help in the following ways. The Virginia Beach Schools Education Foundation will take tax deductible donations at www.vbef.org. Schools, PTA’s, parents, and community members can also “pack a Beach Bag” by assembling the ten items in the attached list in a paper or plastic (unsealed) bag. Beach Bags can be delivered to School Administration and Parent Connection will make arrangements for pickup and distribution.
2 – individual cereal boxes – small, individual sized boxes or bowls
2 – 8 oz shelf stable milk – individual cartons (juice box sized)
2 – shelf-stable main course items – ravioli, spaghetti & meatballs, beef stew, chicken & dumplings, tuna/chunk chicken, tuna helper, macaroni & cheese, chunky soups, peanut butter & crackers
2 – 4 oz or larger fruit cups and/or 100% juice boxes
2 – snack items
Questions? Please call the Office of Community Engagement at 757.263.1936 or firstname.lastname@example.org