Q&A: Local church starts a program to end child hunger

Last Week, Baptist Grove Church began partnering with Leesville Road Elementary to start the Pride Pack Program to aid those in need of full meals. Contributions from those in the community will ensure the proper nutrition for disadvantaged kids in need. A Questionnaire via email was conducted with Reverend Chalice Overy, Baptist Grove’s youth minister.

Q. What is the Pride Pack Program and which demographic (age, income, etc) does it serve? Any partnerships?

A. The Pride Pack [P]rogram is an initiative of Leesville Road Elementary School.  It provides weekend meals to hunger vulnerable students every Friday.  Fifteen students have been identified for this year.  These are students who may not always have access to meals on Saturday and Sunday when school meals are not available.  The school holds many of their own drives, but sometimes supplies get low. At Baptist Grove, we thought that holding a drive and collecting money for the program would be a good way to participate in Hunger Action Month this September.

Q. Why is it hard sometimes to identify kids who suffer through poverty in a community like Leesville?

A. I think that many people assume that people in this community live in stable housing, which suggests financial security.  The reality is that many kids who go to school in this area are bused from poorer communities.  Additionally, you never know what a family is dealing with behind closed doors.  The economy has forced a lot of people to make some tough decisions.

Poverty accelerates in Wake County Schools

The proportion of students attending Leesville Road Elementary dependent on free or reduced price lunches continues to rise to new heights.  Since the onset of the Great Recession, many families have faced layoffs, underemployment, and foreclosures; making money for full meals harder to reach by. According to Wake Education Partnership, poverty nearly tripled from 12.7 (2007-2008) to 31.7 (2012-2013). This symptom of the recession is seen across every school in Wake County.

Q. What disadvantages do some of these kids face day by day and the weekend? Why is it so hard for these kids to get the proper nutrition?

A. These kids may not have the school supplies that they need, and are often not able to participate in extracurricular activities or activities after school hours because their families do not have transportation.  During the week, families only have to provide dinner because school supplies the rest.  But on the weekends families have to provide all meals.  Sometimes there is not enough food to go around, or not enough nutrition in the food that the family has.

Q.  Being a youth minister, how do you plan or expect to spread “the message of God” or devotion to the local community?

A. Jesus said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you (John 13:15).”  Jesus fed people when they were hungry.  He met people’s spiritual needs and physical needs.  He expects us to do likewise.  When we help others, people don’t simply hear a message about God’s love, they experience it through our actions.  This is the reason that service is one of our 3 core values.  In addition to participating in our quarterly service weekends as a church, the youth ministry also does an MLK Day service project, a summer mission project and tries to make a difference where we see a need, like our current food drive for the Pride Pack program.

Q. What are some of your goals and what do you and Baptist Grove in general hope to gain from this outreach?

A. We want to help kids have food in their stomachs.  There is no need for them to be hungry when we have access to more food than we can consume.  It’s also extremely important for me the help young people develop a habit of giving that they can carry into adulthood.

Q. How can people in the community contribute and donate to this program?

A. I talked to Rhonda Sloan, the program coordinator.  She says that students and parents donate to drives throughout the year, and she solicits her family and neighbors.  When supplies run out, she and others even [donate money coming] out of their own pockets.

Q. Do you look forward to more youth involvement and leadership?

A. Absolutely!  In fact over the next 10 weeks we will be connecting our Bible study time to service.  For the first 5 weeks we will talk about what it looks like to serve others and why we do it.  For the last 5-weeks, we will connect our learning to action, allowing youth to plan their service projects for 2014.  I hope some of that service can benefit Leesville Road Elementary.  As a matter of fact, they have a need for tutors in the afternoon while some kids wait for buses.  I would love to see an LHS student help coordinate high school volunteers to serve as tutors and role models to these elementary students.

For more information of the program, visit baptistgrove.org. Students and their families are also encouraged to bring canned goods to Baptist Grove on any day of the week.

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