Feeding the Valley giving away backpacks

Published 11:25 am Thursday, November 23, 2017

Feeding the Valley food bank plans to give more than 320 weekend backpacks to children in Troup County after receiving a $24,469 grant from the Caterpillar Foundation last week.

Feeding the Valley food bank president and CEO Frank Sheppard said the grant was specifically given for the backpack program, which provides weekend meals to local children.

“Caterpillar does have a facility in Troup County, which is part of our coverage area, so that’s how the grant came together,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard said Caterpillar has donated to the food bank multiple times before and Feeding the Valley appreciates the continued support.

“Caterpillar had done this for several years, so we’re very thankful that they continue to support it. This is the third year we have received it and it’s an even larger amount than we have in the past,” he said.

Feeding the Valley already provides approximately 350 backpacks for children in Troup County. According to Sheppard, the donation also helps with the cost of the program.

“While we have partner agencies who sponsor the backpacks for children there are still a lot of costs in the program which we as a food bank bear the cost of,” he said. “We are able to use this grant, not only to help partner agencies to expand the program, but also to be able to support some of the expenses that go into the backpack program.”

Giving backpacks to hungry children is a confidential process, Sheppard said.

“We provide the food to a partner who has volunteers and they assemble the backpacks and get them to the school. The school then has identified chronically hungry kids based on the number of backpacks that the partner is able to sponsor and they send that many backpacks to the school and then the school actually distributes them. It’s very confidential, the volunteers do not know the names of the children who are receiving it,” Sheppard said. “The other kids in school do not know who is receiving backpacks. The recipients are just told to go to a certain room on Friday, pick up the backpacks and bring the empty one back on Monday.”

The foodbank is meeting half its need, but grants such as one given by Caterpillar Foundation help, according to Sheppard.

“Our mission is to continue to expand our programs and provide more food until there is enough food for every hungry child, adult and senior in each of our counties,” he said. “The opportunities with generous grants like this from the Caterpillar Foundation give us the opportunity to continue to move toward that goal of providing enough food for everyone who’s in need in our communities.”

Sheppard said the food bank is grateful for the partners in the backpack program.

“We appreciate very much the partners we have in Troup County that do a tremendous job in ministering the backpack program. The school systems as well that help us to be able to operate and to distribute the food to those who are in need,” he said. “It really is a community partnership, and we appreciate all the parties that come together to help us administer this program.”