Kingsley Elementary School partnership provides free food to students

Every Friday this school year, 65 Kingsley Elementary School students go home for the weekend with backpacks filled with healthy food options.

The students are part of Congregation Beth Shalom’s “Backpack Buddies” program. The program provides healthy snacks and food to students and their families to eat during the weekend. Kingsley Principal, Melanie Pearch, said the school partnered with the Dunwoody Synagogue’s program after its co-chairman, Ronald Robbins, contacted her.

“He just reached out to me out of the blue a few years ago and asked if we would be interested in [the program], and I said yes,” Pearch said.

Ronald and Samra Robbins, along with volunteers, pick up food the Atlanta Community Food Bank and retail outlets, pack the food in backpacks and deliver two buggies worth of food to Kingsley every Wednesday. On Fridays, the students enrolled in the program pick up their backpacks from administrators.

Kingsley counselor Marilyn Hamilton said the partnership with “Backpack Buddies” allows the school to support healthy eating habits for the weekend.

“Our ‘Backpack Buddies’ program gives us a peace of mind to know that our students have food for the weekend and they’re learning about healthy eating habits at an early age,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the students are excited every week to receive the healthy treats.

“There is no stigma behind [it],” she said. “It’s a just a sense of thankfulness and enjoyment.”

Any student can enroll in “Backpack Buddies.” Hamilton said she asked teachers at the beginning of the school year if they have students in mind that would like to be in the program.

“I send home a note for the parents to sign and I put a list together,” she said. “It’s something that [parents] look forward to.”

Pearch said the program benefits students, their families and the community.

“It ensures that students’ basic needs are met,” Pearch said. “In addition, it kind of helped us branch off into seeing if there are other needs. It has helped us expand into giving Thanksgiving baskets and [conducting] a coat drive. It has helped us help the community, not just the school, but the whole Kingsley community.”

Contributed by Carla Parker