Newark Elementary seeking donations for backpack food program

Newark Elementary seeking donations for backpack food program
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Newark Elementary School is in need of donations to help keep their Food Backpack program alive.

According to Principal Kathy Magness, every Friday, her students serve backpacks full of food, school supplies, and hygiene products to over 30 families in need living in the Cedar Ridge School District.

"Many families in the community are in desperate situations," she said. "They're living on fixed incomes, and it's very hard for them to provide. However, each family will get a backpack to take home for the weekend so the children will have some nourishment and extra on top of what the family is providing."

Magness said the school has reached over 100 kids through the backpack program.

However, she said due to state funds no longer supporting the food pantry, the school is currently relying on community donations.

"We got very low after the Christmas holiday," she said. "We were down to very minimum things. We sent out some more flyers, made more announcements to churches, and posted on our school website asking for donations."

Magness said the food backpacks are packed by students in GAP, or Great Attitude People.

"They're selected and nominated by their teachers," she said. "They come in and pack the backpacks under our counselor's direction."

Counselor Emma Nelson said she usually has a list on the board of what items students need to put in each food bag.

"We try to change it up every week to give them a little bit of variety," she said. "We have a checklist and we make sure they check off whenever the backpacks get distributed."

After the backpacks are filled with goodies, Nelson said the food bags are distributed privately to each student to take home.

"It's all done without names," she said. "There are a number and name of a classroom teacher labeled on the backpacks. So, the students will load up one of our carts and go up and down the hallways and set them outside doors for kids to pick up after school."

Brandom Mendez-Sanchez, a 4th-grade GAP Student, said he enjoys giving back to his community.

"It feels good to help people," he said. "Because some people don't have enough food to buy, or have enough money; so it feels good giving people backpacks with food and everything inside."

Not only does Newark Elementary provide backpacks for the community, Principal Magness said they also have a clothing closet filled with new coats and shoes for families and children in need.

"Our community is fantastic about supporting our school," she said. "We're a small community, but we have a heart of gold."

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