The Seven Hills Rotary Club took some time Tuesday to volunteer at Rome Action Ministries’ Bagwell Food Pantry.
Members stuffed backpacks for a program called SuperPacks — which helps children in need from Floyd County, Rome City and Bartow County schools.
“We wanted to do something for Thanksgiving during the normal time that we meet,” said Julie Lucas, president of the club. “They were looking for extra help, and it falls right in line with the service that we like to do.”
The program, formerly known as Backpack Buddies, has been providing backpacks for needy children to take home over the weekend for at least a decade, according to Ramona Schwengel, who works at the food pantry.
“We serve around 30 schools,” said Schwengel. “We average about 1,400 (backpacks) a week.”
She says they usually try to have at least four to six meals for the weekend, when students aren’t in school to eat, and added that Northwest Georgia has one of the highest poverty rates in the state.
Rome provides free lunches for students since the majority of students, based on federal guidelines, are considered to be in need.
Floyd County Schools, on the other hand, voted to return to paid and reduced-rate lunch in January, but does provide free breakfast.
The lunch debt is now around $32,000 according to the school system’s nutrition director.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 19% of Floyd County’s population is listed below the federal poverty line. In Bartow County, it is 13%.
In 2019, federal guidelines define poverty in Georgia as an annual income at or below $12,140 for a household of one person, $25,750 or less for a family of four.
Some members of the Rotary club simply hope the kids who receive these backpacks feel loved.
“I hope that they get a blessing and something good to eat,” said Jimmy Gentry. “I hope that they know somebody loves and cares about them.”