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.
On Sunday, Aug. 25, beginning at noon, the church will have a benefit lunch with carryout meals.
The church is also raising funds with craft nights for families. The next event, to focus on scrapbooking, is 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. Admission is $10 per person. All funds raised will go toward purchasing items from a Milton food bank, Lawson said.
The Wednesday night Girls in Action church class, headed by Lawson, will bag meals for volunteers to distribute on Thursdays.
Helping others teaches kids an important lesson, she said.
"Our children are very instrumental in helping with this program," Arias said. "(The program) is really good about teaching them about poverty and giving back to the community."
Want to go?
WHAT: Lunch benefiting Baker Backpack Buddies
WHEN: Noon Sunday, Aug. 25, following the church's Sunday morning service
WHERE: Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, 5595 Highway 4 S., Baker
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.