One in four children in Jackson County faces food insecurity, which means they are without a reliable source of food or nutrition. On Friday, July 28, The Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, the Impact Learning Center and the Jackson County Legislative Delegation sponsored Food For Thought, a fundraising event held at Wal-Mart to raise funds for children at risk of weekend hunger in both the Jackson County and Scottsboro City school districts.
State Representative Tommy Hanes was among many volunteers who greeted store customers and took up donations on Friday. Hanes said the legislative delegation envisions a time when no child in Jackson County will go hungry.
“We have kids right now that’s going home on Friday afternoon and they don’t eat again until Monday morning. That’s hard to fathom in this day in time,” Hanes said. “Children cannot learn on an empty stomach. Food is as important of a learning tool as an iPad or a tablet. It’s that simple.”
Hanes said next year he hopes the one day fundraiser can have more donation points across the county.
“Hopefully we will do this every year, and it will get bigger until we can get rid of the problem,” Hanes said.
Jackson County Superintendent Kevin Dukes said there is a great need to support these types of programs.
“It’s amazing at how many people in our county need this. Their parents work over the weekend or they just don’t have the money for food. It’s a sad situation.” Dukes said. Having both systems work together to help raise money is a great deal.”
The food given to students, Dukes explained, is ready to eat.
“It’s food you don’t have to cook,” Dukes said. “It’s very easy so students can make it themselves.”
Deborah Helms, a teacher from Skyline High School, also volunteered at the fundraiser. Helms has seen firsthand the need for food assistance among her students and helped establish the Backpack Buddies program at Skyline, which already sends food home on the weekend with many students.
“Anyone who knows me knows I love to feed kids,” Helms said. “I’ve had a couple instances at school that let me know years ago that this program was needed and it was just a matter of trying to find a way to make it happen.”
According to Helms there is no set income level for obtaining assistance from the program.
“If a parent, teacher or lunchroom manager thinks there is a need, we put that child on our list and we send them home a pack,” Helms said. “There is no set income level, because there are working folks who can’t make ends meet, and those kids need food too.”
Helms said she believes the program is helping some families get back on their feet.
“The numbers are dropping as far as need. That tells me we are reaching the kids, between backpack program and food pantries,” she said.