To ensure a healthier and more fun- (and stomach-) filled summer break for area youths who may not have access to regular meals, the nonprofit Elk River Backpack Blessings organization is providing a Summer of Snacks food program at Kanawha County library locations, as well as the Husson’s Pizza restaurant in Pinch.
Youths can visit the libraries or Husson’s on the days and hours listed below and request a free bag containing a meal.
• Charleston: Fridays, 2 to 4:30 p.m.
• Clendenin: Tuesdays, all day
• Cross Lanes: Tuesdays, noon to 4 p.m.
• Dunbar: Mondays, 1 to 4 p.m.
• Elk Valley: Mondays, all day
• Marmet: Thursdays, all day
• Nitro: Monday through Friday, all day
• Riverside: Thursdays, all day
• Sissonville: Wednesdays, all day
• St. Albans: Thursdays, 2 to 4 p.m.
• Husson’s of Pinch, 4 Quick Road, Pinch: Every day during regular operating hours.
“We typically are a school backpack program,” Elk River Backpack Blessings Director Angela Brown said. “We send filled backpacks home on Fridays with students at eight schools along the Elk River, from Clay County to Charleston.
“Toward the end of the school year, we started talking about how food insecurity doesn’t take a break during the summer and brainstorming ways to bring food to the community for kids in need. We’ve had an issue with summer program staffing and having people available for us,” Brown said.
“The library seemed like an ideal location, since they have so many summer programs for kids. We’ve partnered with 10 of the 11 in the libraries in community — all but the Glasgow library; it’s only open one day a week.
“Traditionally, our backpack program has operated from H.E. White Elementary in Clay County to Shoals Elementary in Charleston. When we met with the library, we were initially just looking at serving our typical geographic area; we were going to do the Clendenin and Elkview areas, but the desire was so great to get this out to the entire community.”
Brown said the Summer of Snacks program will continue through July.
“This is our first attempt at doing this,” the Pinch resident said. “We hope it will be successful and next year have it on the mobile library buses in the community so kids will have options of getting the extra nutrition they need.”
“We’ve been interested in providing even more services to the community,” KCPL Marketing Coordinator Stuart Frazier said, “and being able to partner with Elk River Backpack Blessings is one of those things.
“This is the first time we’ve been involved in the program,” Frazier added. “We’re happy to be a part of this; we know that there are children out there whose only meals come from school meals. Now that school is over, it may be more difficult to get that next meal, and we want to do something to provide resources for the communities that we love and care about.”
He said snack items children can receive include foods such as Pop-Tarts, soup, graham crackers and Chef Boyardee pasta products, “so they won’t have to worry so much about where their next meal is coming from.”
To find out more about other free meal locations, text FOOD to 877-877. More information, including how to donate to the program, is available at www.elkriverblessings.org or on the group’s Facebook page or by contacting Brown at 304-553-2114.