Chris Deitrick, coordinator of the local Backpack Buddies program, still gets chills every time he tells the story of how the program got its start. A series of coincidences or the hand of God at work, it does seem that it was meant to be.
Backpack Buddies, which provides food for elementary and middle school children on weekends, marks its 10-year anniversary this spring. It was in February of 2008, when a tornado and ice storms caused back-to-back extended power outages, that Deitrick began to wonder how the lengthy school closures might affect kids who rely on school meals.
“I was talking to a friend, and I was like, “What do these kids do?” “How many kids are on the lunch program and depend on the breakfasts and lunches at school?”
Deitrick discussed the question with several friends, including Lori Isbell, who was also instrumental in getting it started.
Another discussion with a teacher stands out in Deitrick’s memory. She told him she was eating crackers at her desk one afternoon, and a student came up and asked if he could have one. She gave him one, and shortly after he asked for another. She asked him if he had eaten his lunch, and he said, “Yes, but I’m saving them for later.”
“These conversations really put a burden on my heart,” Deitrick recalled. “Hunger is a real thing in Stone County.”
See the full story in the March 14, 2018 issue.