By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON – The First Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon will hold two bake sales this month to raise money for a program that provides nutritious snacks to children in need.
The church's Brown Bag Friday program, as it is known, is in its sixth year and currently serves students at the Primary Center, J.L. Buford Intermediate Center, and Bethel Grade School. Bethel was added to the list of schools served this year.
“We believe this program is helping many children and parents,” said Rebecca Bennett, the church secretary. “According to comments made by teachers and parents, students who receive bags are able to focus and function better during the weekend and when returning to school on Monday.”
Through donations from church members and the public, the church acquires food for the program. This food is then packaged at the church and delivered to participating schools on a weekly basis throughout the school year.
School officials determine ahead of time how many students qualify to receive a weekly food package. This determination is based largely on family income.
The schools then distribute the food packages to students on Fridays so the students have the food for the weekend, said District 80 Assistant Superintendent Aletta Lawrence. The church's program only provides food on weeks with a two-day weekend, not for three-day weekends or holidays.
“We always appreciate any kind of donations from the community that can help our students,” Lawrence said.
Each bag contains a wealth of different foods, including a banana, an apple, a fruit cup, a pudding cup, two juice boxes, two cheese crackers, and more. There are no peanuts.
During the program's first year, the church provided 35 bags of food a week. This year, organizers anticipate handing out around 225 bags a week or 6,075 total for the school year.
To date, more than 10,000 bags of food have been delivered for the program since it began in 2008.
The average cost of each bag of food is $2, meaning organizers need to raise about $12,000 for this year's effort. Several local groups have donated to the program, including Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, the Mt. Vernon Elks Club, and two teaching sororities.
The upcoming bake sales will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on Aug. 24 and 31 at the Big Lots parking lot, 701 Prairie Ave.
At the events, people can buy baked goods or just drop off a donation for the food program, Bennett said. All donations go toward food costs.
The Brown Bag Friday program fits in well with the church's mission, Bennett said.
“Our slogan is, 'loving God and serving others,'” Bennett said.
For more information on the program, contact the church at 242-2877.