SWFL nonprofit continues giving school kids meals for the weekend

Volunteers worked together to fill bags with food that will be given to Southwest Florida school children to ensure they have a meal for this weekend. But volunteers we spoke to say their work is not finished, since there are still more children who need prepared meals.

Students at Franklin Park Elementary are set to receive meals from nonprofit Blessings in a Back of Southwest Florida Friday. They will get to take home the meals with them, so they can get the nutrition they need over the weekend.

It’s all park of Blessings in a Backpack’s main mission, and the nonprofit has helped thousands of kids have meals to eat at schools in Lee County and Collier County. Twelve schools remain on the organizations waiting list, so the nonprofit is not done making sure kids have something to eat when they go home for the weekend.

Volunteers fill up the backpacks with food that thousands of kids in Southwest Florida communities might otherwise go without.

“There was a family at one of my schools this week that they were telling me the family is living in a car,” said Executive Director Cecilia St. Arnold of Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida. “Another school told me, you know, a parent doesn’t have any electricity.”

From lunch on Friday to breakfast on Monday, that’s how long some kids in Southwest Florida have to wait before eating their next meal.

“Kids can’t learn whenever they’re hungry,” said pro football player Tommy Bohanon. They can’t grow when they’re hungry. So to be able to feed these kids and do the things that this group is doing, it’s something that is so needed in this community.”

Organizers say feeding just one child every weekend for the whole year costs around $100.

“We all spend that on a night out downtown, you know, dinner and a couple of drink or whatever,” St. Arnold said. “So, for us, feeding 4,600 kids, you know, that’s a lot of money.”

But the nonprofit says some kids are still going home hungry this weekend. That’s why volunteers like Bohanon, who is a former North Fort Myers High School student-athlete, are also supporting the nonprofit’s mission to help provide food for kids in the area.

“To be able to help out in every little way, it’s something special,” Bohanon said.

Blessings in a Backpack hosts backpack stuffing events every other month and are always receiving volunteers for them.

For more information, visit the Blessings in a Backpack website.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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