Left to right, Shemmah Barrett, principal of Falkland Elementary; ECU student Renata Copeland; and Falkland elementary teacher Beth Ward stand with some of the food collected for the holiday season. (Contributed photo)
A season intended as a time of joy for children – with multiple days out of school – also means no breakfast or lunch for many children across Pitt County. Now thanks in part to a group of East Carolina University students, children at Falkland Elementary School will have meals provided throughout the holiday season.
Multiple student organizations at ECU collected food to supplement Falkland Elementary’s Backpack Pals program, which works throughout the school year to supply children with non-perishable, easy to fix foods. The food items are loaded into backpacks that are sent home each Friday afternoon. The program serves 38 children representing 20 families.
But the program was not set up to provide meals during the two-week holiday break. Falkland Elementary teacher Beth Ward recognized the need to supplement the program and set up this year’s holiday drive. “The food drive on ECU’s campus along with a similar drives held at The Heritage at Arlington and by the Greenville Chapter #2362 Women of the Moose were more than enough to see our children through the break,” Ward said.
Ward said that enough food was collected to send each student home with a box that would last through the holidays. She spoke with several parents who were beside themselves with joy.
“I’ve had parents come in crying and expressing their gratitude for the students and community members who participated in this year’s food drive,” said Ward. “Several families have said that without this drive there would have been days without food on the table during the two-week break.”
Renata Copeland, an ECU student and member of the Council on Family Relations, was overwhelmed by the need existing in her own back yard. “I wanted to get involved with Backpack Pals because no child deserves to go hungry. You cannot learn if you are hungry,” said Copeland. “I love giving back to my community and this was something that really touched me.”
In addition to food donations, Walmart of Greenville awarded Falkland Elementary a $2,000 grant to provide holiday items and instructional supplies for the Backpack Pal students.
“Without the local businesses and community members who sponsor this program year-round and special events like the one held at ECU, we wouldn’t be able to provide the children in Pitt County with adequate food throughout the year,” said Ward.
The ECU student organizations who collected food for the program include ECU Campus Kitchen, ECU Council on Family Relations, Eta Sigma Delta International Honor Society, National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, and Student Dietetic Association and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center.