Blessings in a Backpack seeks support as it tries to keep up with demand

A Thunder Bay, Ont. charity that works to keep children fed on weekends is asking for community support as it struggles to keep up with demand.

Demand for charity, which helps keep children fed, growing fast

Blessings in a Backpack volunteers pack food for distribution at Thunder Bay schools on Wednesday. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

A Thunder Bay, Ont. charity that works to keep children fed on weekends is asking for community support as it struggles to keep up with demand.

Blessings in a Backpack provides food to Thunder Bay youth for them to eat on weekends. The group fills a gap experienced by food-insecure families, who often have resources to turn to during the week — such as breakfast or lunch programs — but struggle to provide enough food for their children on weekends, when those programs aren't available.

Over the last year, Blessings in a Backpack has provided food for 248 Thunder Bay children, with another 48 on a waiting list, program coordinator Amina Abu-Bakare said.

And the need continues to grow.

"We just got a call from Ecole Gron Morgan," Abu-Bakare said. "They want us to be there by September, and they have 100 kids [in need of the program]."

"That's a lot of fundraising."

Specifically, it will cost Blessings in a Backpack $12,000 a year for the next three years to include Ecole Gron Morgan's students in the program. Students individually cost $120 a school year to feed, Abu-Bakare said. 

On Wednesday, Blessings in a Backpack received a donation of $5,100 from 100 People Who Care Thunder Bay, which, Abu-Bakare said, will be a big help.

But more needs to be raised, and she's putting out a call to the community.

"I'm making a big appeal to donors in Thunder Bay, organizations, to please, please adopt Ecole Gron Morgan," she said. "We also would need help with fruits — if there's any grocery manager listening, please, we need fruits for next September."

Abu-Bakare also said the organization — currently working out of Our Kids Count — will soon be moving into Ogden school, which provides a larger space for more volunteers to pack food.

"The response has been amazing," she said. "I have had a few mothers self-identify to me, and they've said this is the best thing that happened to their kids, and some kids have said this is the best thing that's happened to them on the weekend."

"It's sad that we are doing this, because the main thing is to make sure that these kids stay in school, and they don't repeat the vicious cycle they are finding themselves in."

Anyone interested in contributing can visit blessingsinabackpack.ca, click on 'get involved' and then 'donate now,' and choose Thunder Bay from the drop-down menu.

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