Blessings in a Backpack’s operations continue during the COVID-19 pandemic and is getting some help from the Campbell County School District.

Starting last week, the district is distributing Blessings in a Backpack bags at its meal pick-up sites at elementary schools around the community, Blessings coordinator Elly Henning said.

Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food over the weekends for students, has seen an increase of more than 150 students in the last week. With schools closed because of COVID-19, the overall number has increased from about 800 to 975.

Henning expects it to continue to grow, especially after observing the first week of combined efforts with the school district. Once some families noticed that Blessings in a Backpack was distributing at the pick-up sites, requests for the blessings bags increased, she said.

That means that on Fridays, some students will be receiving bags of food from Blessings in a Backpack, plus two meals a day for Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the school district’s pick-up sites.

“We’re still serving our meals, they’re providing their meals,” said Dennis Holmes, associate superintendent for instructional support. “During this time, if people are getting more food … that’s probably a good thing. Both programs are going strong.”

The school district makes the process easy for Blessings in a Backpack by picking up the bags of food at the Blessings’ warehouse and taking them to the pick-up sites, Henning said. Counselors, who are usually in charge of distributing the bags at schools on Fridays, have a list of students who need the additional meals.

Several small donations over the past weeks have helped Blessings in a Backpack and it has an adequate food stock for now. However, if the demand continues to grow as much each week, Henning said having enough food for the last week of school year might be in question.

The increased demand hasn’t been a surprise to Henning.

“When the economy is hurting, that’s when our numbers increase,” she said. “Thankfully, we were able to accommodate those new numbers.”

With the efforts to abide by social distancing rules, Blessings in a Backpack has been using fewer volunteers. That’s caused some of them to work longer hours to stuff the backpacks, but Henning said most are happy to have something to do.

Henning also has received calls from students volunteering and some from parents who were volunteering their kids’ time. When the program takes its summer hiatus, it will have to do a lot of reorganizing at its facility and cleaning, which she said would be the perfect time for more volunteers.

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