THE ISSUE: Hunger is very real for school children on meal assistance while home during the holidays.
LOCAL IMPACT: The BASF Corporation, the Baton Rouge Food Bank and Volunteer Ascension joined forces to make a difference by providing food assistance to these children. Cars were lined up for hours the week of Christmas.
A $25,000 donation from BASF to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank helped make the Ascension parish BackPack Program a huge success in 2017. The donor-funded program is designed to help feed low-income students over the holidays.
These children receive free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program, and they are at risk of missing meals during holidays when they are not in school.
"Thanks to BASF, we were able to partner and volunteer to the community," Director of Development and Philanthropy at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank James McGowan said.
The "backpacks" are filled with a variety of nutritious, child friendly food items such as canned goods, dry goods, chicken, 12-pack drinks, stuffing, gravy and more. The food was then distributed to at-risk children in select elementary schools.
The food drive attracted a continuous line of cars through the Donaldsonville Primary parking lot on December 16 for over two hours.
"It's an organized chaos," BASF Communications Assistant Brenna Vial said.
BASF and other donors have supported the program for years through funding and volunteer efforts.
“Through our partnership with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, BASF is committed to supporting Ascension parish’s youngest minds by ensuring at-risk children have meals when they are not in school,” said Tom Yura, BASF’s Senior Vice President and General Manager in Geismar, Louisiana. “Holiday breaks and weekends can be a tough time for these students, but the BackPack program addresses this critical need.”
The BackPack program serves needy children at schools in the 11-parish service area, and it has a profound impact, especially over long holiday breaks. The program is a critical outreach project aimed at fighting child hunger.
“While many students look forward to the holiday break, we know that some students will struggle with hunger during this time while not receiving free or reduced-price meals through the school lunch program,” said Mike Manning, President and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. “Hunger is very real for these children during the holidays. We are very grateful to be able to make a difference by providing food assistance to these children through partners like BASF, who continue to help us make this BackPack program possible.”
Ascension Parish Public Schools and Volunteer Ascension helped distribute the backpacks on Saturday, as well.
"It's amazing, and they are just so thankful," Ascension Public Schools PIO Jackie Tisdell said.
The Christmas spirit was alive in Donaldsonville. Volunteers even played Christmas music while they filled backpacks.
"We love working in this parish," Executive Director of Volunteer Ascension Sherry Denig said.
Updated December 19.
Follow Halen on Twitter: @LikeVanHalen, Greg: @AscensionEditor