A group based on Kiawah Island is fighting child hunger by providing nearly 300 take-home meals a week for students during the school year.
In 2013, the Kiawah Women’s Foundation launched the Backpack Buddies program – one designed to fight weekend hunger by giving meals to students at the end of the week so they’ll have something to eat over the weekend.
Terry Weaver, one of the program’s co-founders, said meals always include a piece of fresh fruit and shelf-stable food items.
In the inaugural year, just 25 students benefited from the program. This year, the Kiawah Women’s Foundation says it will serve 285 students from Angel Oak Elementary and Haut Gap Middle School on Johns Island, and Frierson Elementary on Wadmalaw Island.
“We usually ramp up during the school year as needs arise,” Weaver said. “We work closely with the school counselors and they help us identify students in need.”
One out of every six children live each day unsure of where their next meal will come from, according to Feeding America, the group that operates the nationwide backpack program.
More than 80 percent of the families who receive help from Feeding America buy the cheapest food possible, regardless of how unhealthy the items are, according to the group.
That's why Backpack Buddies works with Freshfields Village, the Darby Foundation and several other organizations to provide a variety of healthier options for kids. Weaver said she has more than 100 volunteers who work with her to put the meals together.
In addition, Backpack Buddies also runs a teen holiday project that provides gifts and basic necessities for middle and high school students during the holiday season.
Weaver said they were able to collect presents last year for 93 students. This year, they want to reach 100.
“It’s a very rewarding experience when you work to help out your neighbors,” she said.
The Kiawah Women’s Foundation accepts donations throughout the year. Those interested can visit www.kiawahwomensfoundation.org and click the “Donate” button.