Backpack Blessings is gearing up to feed students in need

Volunteers pack two breakfasts, lunches and dinners for every student who receives a bag. (WCHS/WVAH)

The community in the Elk River area in Kanawha County is coming together again to feed students in need this school year.

Debi O'Dell, the Director of Elk River Backpack Blessings, knows how important it is for kids to have a full stomach in order to concentrate in school.

"If a child has a hungry stomach, he can't focus on anything else,” said Debi O’Dell, Director of Elk River Backpack Blessings. “We know for a fact that attendance is better. We know for a fact that test scores are going up. We know for a fact that they have a better attitude."

This is the 6th year of Backpack Blessings, which is a community food program that helps students who face a food shortage at home.

The program feeds around 400-500 students in seven schools.

"We are supposed to do our civic duty, and our civic duty is for the common good,” said O’Dell. “If we don't teach our young people that the community cares about them and that we want them to be successful then we're going to have an awful lot of students that are just lost."

Each week, volunteers pack two breakfasts, lunches and dinners for every student who receives a bag, and it usually contains juice, gummies, soup and other snacks.

The bag of food costs around $10, which comes to an estimated cost of $3,000 a week to feed the students.

"They kind of fight over helping to unload the cars or trucks when we show up. They're excited,” said O’Dell. “It's supposed to be an anonymous thing, but the kids are proud to get them, so they don't hide them. They just say, 'I get these bags, and I'm glad I do.'"

O'Dell said if you want your child to receive a bag of food, talk with your school counselors or staff.

Backpack Blessings packs food bags for students at:

  • HE White
  • Clendenin Elementary
  • Bridge Elementary
  • Elkview Middle
  • Herbert Hoover High
  • Elk Center
  • Pinch Elementary

Food or money donations are being accepted to help fund the program for the year. For a link to donate, click here.

Elk River Backpack Blessings was also chosen as one of the top 200 submissions (out of 2,000) for State Farm’s Neighborhood Assist Program.

The top 40 programs with the most votes will be awarded $25,000.

You can vote for Backpack Blessings from August 16 through August 25.

For a link to vote, click here.

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