Bags of Hope remains committed to its mission of addressing childhood food insecurity in our community, and we recognize that the already great need for our services has not diminished but rather increased in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures have threatened a major source of nutrition for our students who rely on free/reduced school lunch and breakfast offerings, making our provision of weekend food bags all the more critical. Unfortunately, this also presents new challenges for us; yet we have already adapted and are continuing to refine our operations.
In addition to our regular weekend bags, we typically send a larger extra bag home on the last day before school breaks such as spring break. We were already in the process of soliciting donations for spring break when we learned of likely school closures and made the decision to send these bags home on the last day of school. We rushed to mobilize our volunteer base and received a flood of support. Our Facebook message soliciting help was shared 174 times and seen by more than 21,000 people, and in only a few days we received and assembled more than 700 bags! We also received an outpouring of support through food and monetary donations, offers of services from local businesses, and people wanting to help. We were completely blown away by the care and generosity shown by this community in a time of need! Thank you, Lake Norman and north Charlotte!
On the last day of school (March 16), we delivered extended break bags to 405 students at 18 schools (even adding a new school that reached out to us during this crisis). Our swift action was noticed and covered by the Charlotte Observer and WBTV.
Going forward, we intend to continue sending weekly bags but face the challenge of finding new means of delivery. Some schools remain open for school meal distribution, and we are delivering to those sites. In other cases, we are teaming up with local organizations, such as Caterpillar Ministries which serves a low-income neighborhood where many of our students live. Some school counselors have even offered to pick up bags from us to deliver to their students. Using all of these methods, we delivered another 453 bags the week of March 23-27 and continue to serve students at 18 schools each week.
Normally our bags are packed by groups of volunteers; we are modifying this procedure to limit volunteer interactions. While we are taking all necessary precautions to maintain social distance and limit personal contacts, we are exempt from Mecklenburg County's "Stay at Home" order as an "essential operation", and we will continue supplying food to students experiencing food insecurity in the north Charlotte and Lake Norman area.
Thank you again for helping us fight childhood hunger in our community. See our Facebook page for the latest info on how we're serving.