From a weekend backpack ministry at Davidson United Methodist Church in 2012 to a similar project with Journey Church in 2017 and another program through Mosaic Church in 2018, combining efforts of love and generous hearts has multiplied the important outreach of Bags of Hope.
An average of 650 students are currently being served at 30 local schools in the Lake Norman and greater Charlotte areas, each weekend of the school year. Now striving to serve 750 local students with food during the upcoming spring break holiday, Bags of Hope is relied on by more and more schools to reduce food insecurity within our community.
“Bags of Hope receives funding through grants, as well as individual and corporate donations,” said Nicole Fiehler, program coordinator. “In addition, in-kind donations make up about 50% of the food used in our backpacks, while the remaining 50% is purchased from a few local grocery stores and our partner, Second Harvest Food Bank.”
Bags of Hope relies directly on school contacts – often guidance counselors or social workers – to identify students who would benefit from the program. Although a student may receive free or reduced lunch on school days, their families may struggle on those days away from school.
“Once a parent signs a permission form, students begin receiving a backpack of food each weekend of the school year,” said Nicole. “In many cases, we serve multiple students in one household, and we also serve students with food allergies.”
When bags are packed and ready, volunteers deliver to schools, where contacts place them in backpacks for students to take home on Friday afternoon and return on Monday morning. “The backpacks are not labeled with the student’s name or ‘Bags of Hope,’ so the process is as discreet as possible,” said Nicole. “The goal is for students to return to school on Monday well-fed, well-rested and ready to learn!
With March comes spring break, and a reminder that Bags of Hope also provides larger bags of food over extended school breaks, which includes Thanksgiving and winter break. These larger bags contain 21 meals, several side items and snacks, plus a $20 grocery store gift card (most often Food Lion.)
“With a goal of sending home 750 bags during this break, we need help from the entire community,” said Nicole.
What a perfect opportunity for families, individuals, sports teams, offices and service clubs to shop together for specific items, pack them in reusable grocery bags and drop off at the Bags of Hope warehouse located at 10308 Bailey Road, Suite 413, in Cornelius – on March 16th from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Please check the website (BagsofHopeLKN.com) or the group’s social media pages for a complete list of food items to be included!
Without the support of generous individuals, groups and businesses from around the community, none of these efforts could be accomplished.
“The need in our community is great, and what I find most inspiring about the work at Bags of Hope is the way neighbors in the community show up to provide hope and food for families in need,” said Nicole. “By volunteering to pack bags, donating or organizing food drives throughout the year, this steady dedication to our mission has allowed us to never turn away a new student in need!”
Please visit BagsofHopeLKN.com for a list of specific requested food items, and mark your family’s calendar to drop off food the morning of March 16th. Email info@BagsofHopeLKN.com for more information, and follow the group on Facebook and Instagram @BagsofHopeLKN. Bags of Hope is a 501(c)(3) charity and donations are tax-deductible.