TEAYS VALLEY, W.Va. — Area kids won’t have to worry about going hungry during the summertime months.

The Backpack Buddy Program is gearing up to start back again for its 12th year.

Volunteers with the program puts together boxes made up of about 23 different food items and mails them out every other week throughout the summer to students in Putnam, Boone, western Kanawha, and Clay counties, as well as in Martin County Kentucky.

Backpack Buddy Director Doug Erwin said on 580 Live with Dave Allen Tuesday that the program was created to fill a gap in food insecurity specifically for the summer months kids are out of school.

“Traditionally a lot of kids on Fridays take an extra bag home, a lot of civic organizations support schools during the school year and give a little extra to get kids through the weekend, well, last day of school, that stops,” Erwin said.

Erwin said they also found that mailing the food out helps avoid any transportation barriers kids may face in getting to a central location to pick up the food.

He said each box includes six cans of ravioli, soup, Ramen Noodles, fruit, a vegetable, NutriGrain Bars, and oatmeal.

Erwin said they work very closely with local schools to assess which particular students may have a need for the boxes.

“Those folks know the need, and throughout this process through the last several years and from the beginning is the care and compassion that our schools, our teachers, our counselors, our administration have for these kids,” he said.

However, he said sign-up sheets to receive them are available to everyone in the counties the program serves.

Erwin said this year alone, they will be supporting about 1,850 kids with about 7,000 boxes.

In addition, he said being the program’s 12th year, they will be mailing out their 50-thousandth box at some point this summer.

Erwin said they hear many stories that reinforce why they are doing what they do in helping to feed area kids over the summer.

“You know, we get back the stories from our counselors that folks say, ‘our car broke down during the summer and we didn’t have the opportunity to replace it and we were paying a neighbor to take us to the store, and when these boxes come every other week it was very helpful,” he said.

Erwin encourages the community to volunteer and help pack the boxes for the summer.

This Saturday, June 1 at 10 a.m. volunteers are invited to come out to the Teays Valley Nazarene Church in Putnam County to help Backpack Buddy program members in packing up the food boxes. It’s part of the organization’s Community Packing Days with the next one to be held the following Saturday, June 8 at the Madison Civic Center in Boone County.

Erwin said in an assembly-line fashion, volunteers will pack up all of the food for the whole summer to be shipped out to the kids, as well as a book and a personal enrichment flyer.

He said from clubs and organizations, to sports teams and individuals just looking to make a difference within their community can come lend a helping hand.

“We say that we got jobs for everybody from 2 to 92,” Erwin said. “Bring your young ones, bring your wagon and stroller and put in the box and push it through, we’ve got kids helping hand out the food, we’ve got folks that can sit down and help us pass out the flyers.”

Erwin added that it’s a great opportunity for high school students to earn their community service hours. He said they will have a tent set up for sign ups and community service certificates.

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