Lake Forest and Ocoee middle school students have reason to celebrate well into the new year with the introduction of The Caring Place’s Sac Pac program.
Executive Director Reba Terry applied for and was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Tucker Foundation. All costs are covered for a total of 50 students, from January through December 2014. There will be 25 weekend meal recipients from each school on a weekly basis.
Sac Pac Coordinator Lee Ann Lowe worked hard to raise awareness of the need for the packs at the middle school level.
“A lot of these kids are kids that got sac pacs last year when they were in fifth grade, before they moved to middle school,” Lowe said. “They haven’t had their sac pacs this whole time.”
Many of the former fifth-graders showed concern about whether or not they would have the packs going into middle school. Their questions weighed on Lowe. She cited growth spurts as a leading reason for the need of the packs at the middle school level.
Both schools have placed at least five students on the wait lists for the Sac Pac program.
Packs are currently being provided to each of the Bradley County elementary schools. Waterville and Black Fox Elementary are two of the schools with the highest number of recipients at 111 and 106 respectively. Both schools feed into Lake Forest’s population.
Lowe predicted a high need for the packs at both middle schools, especially LFMS.
Principals, counselors and social workers at Lake Forest and Ocoee were thrilled with the news. Their excitement continued even after Lowe warned accepting the packs would mean additional work for both schools.
A total of 11 Bradley County schools are now a part of the program. The addition raised the number of bags to be delivered per week from 461 to 511. Lowe said the weekly load is almost the equivalent of a ton of food.
The program operates anonymously. Only specific teachers, counselors and administrators at each school know the students involved in the program. All packs are handed out on Fridays before school lets out. Other students are not permitted to know about the program or the students involved.
Each bag weighs approximately 4 pounds, 6 ounces. Every student receives two breakfast items, two lunches or dinners, two gummy snacks, two granola bars, two shelf-stable milks, microwaveable macaroni and cheese and two juice boxes.
Everything will be the same as it is with the elementary schools.
According to Lowe, the program is designed to make it easier on economically disadvantaged children who often depend on the free and reduced breakfast and lunches offered at school. Being out of school for two days can often mean certain nutritional needs are not met.
Lake Forest and Ocoee students were to receive their first packs the Friday following the return from winter break.
Lowe described working with the middle schools as a team effort.
“They were just willing to do whatever they had to do make it happen,” Lowe said. “I just continue to keep getting blown away by Bradley County’s teachers, counselors and the staff at each of these schools.”
Added Lowe, “I am really proud to be a part of all of it.”
She said the packs do more than provide nutrition for a child in need. Each one lets a child know there is someone who cares whether they have enough food.
“It is so much bigger than that little white bag,” Lowe said before touching on the hope and love the packs provide.
More bags will be provided as funding allows.
More information on the program, how to volunteer or how to donate can be found by contacting The Caring Place at 472-4414.