Weekend backpack programs get big financial boost

A grant from the Michael and Valarie Hall Foundation will help fund a program to get healthy foods to area children

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Rosa Birks and her husband Jamison recently started “Simple Snacks”, a program that provides food over the weekend for kids in Nettleton. They are one of many nonprofits represented at the roundtable event, hosted by the Hunger Coalition of Northeast Mississippi.

“As a new nonprofit it is important in any business or nonprofit to connect with others and we are interested in learning from others and working from others on what we can do to provide for our community,” Birks said.

Krisi Boren started the “Full Tummy Project” nearly eight years ago, to provide weekend meals for children in Amory. Boren said the roundtable provides vital information and encouragement.

“Talking about how can we do things better, how can we be more efficient, different problems we each face and someone may have an answer for that,” Boren said.

Katie Dixon is a celebrity chef from Hattiesburg, who was featured on Food Network’s Master Chef with Gordon Ramsey. She said it’s important for the groups to look at food quality as well as quantity and accessibility.

“The big thing about food insecurity is we think if children have food, they’re not food insecure. Actually, children can have food, but if they are not having the nutrients in the food they need, they still can have food insecurity. My goal is to help these children get healthier options in their backpacks and to teach them, educate them, on how they can eat healthier foods and make better choices throughout the school year,” Dixon said.

Nutritional education and weekend back programs got a big boost, with a $75,000 donation from the Michael and Valerie Hall Foundation. Tiffany Phillips is the executive director of the foundation and said the desire is to come alongside those who are helping fight food insecurity.

“This is important to the Hall Family Foundation because we see students who go home hungry and we want to enhance this program every year to extend this program into all counties in North Mississippi,” Phillips said.

Organizers of the event said the grant is an example of what can happen when area nonprofits and civic groups work together for the kids.

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