Free weekend food program benefits needy Baker students

baker backpack program

Lauren Adams, Whitney Walker and Kailyn Ellis, left photo, store donations in a food pantry at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. The church is raising funds to provide weekend meals for needy students. (MATTHEW BROWN / News Bulletin). Collections will support the Baker Backpack Buddies program, coordinated by Angie Arias and Shana Lawson, right photo. (Special to the News Bulletin)

Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 10:40 AM.

BAKER — Baker School elementary students from lower-income households can receive free weekend lunches and dinners this school year, courtesy of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and North Okaloosa residents’ efforts.

Starting in September, the Baker Backpack Buddies program will provide two lunches and two dinners with snacks to last the weekend for qualifying students. Children and parents can sign up for the program through the Baker School cafeteria, school teacher, front office or school nurse. A parent or guardian must sign a permission slip.

The bags will be given to students upon boarding the bus. That should ensure nutritious offerings for needy students and those enrolled in the school’s free and reduced lunch program, organizer Shana Lawson said.

"At Baker School, there are over 50 percent of children on the free and reduced lunch (program)," she said. "There are 600 elementary students, so there are 300 (elementary) students that qualify."

Lawson said she learned about the need after talking with school staffers and hearing prayer requests.

After learning that several churches in the country have similar programs, Lawson reached out to school and church officials.

Following approval from both, Lawson and fellow church member Angie Arias began planning Baker’s Backpack Buddies program, which relies on the community’s support.

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