How You Can Help Provide Hunger-Free Weekends, Safely
Food is the most important school supply for thousands of children across the First Coast and throughout the country. A nutritious meal can help fuel their success, but for many, the meals they receive at school might be the only access they have to high-quality foods.
First Coast Blessings in a Backpack works to fill this gap, and relies on the generosity of our incredible community to do so.
One of the many ways to get involved with our mission to end childhood hunger over the weekends is to host a packing event to fill food bags that will be donated to those in need. These can be conducted in workplace settings or other designated locations for interested volunteers.
The first step to hosting an event should be to contact our Chapter Director Susan Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org to help you coordinate and execute.
As with any food-related event, and especially in light of COVID-19, there are several best practices we encourage volunteers to follow in order to host a successful and safe packing event.
- Check CDC and local safety guidelines, and implement suggested safety procedures, including: Temperature checks, regular hand washing, social distancing, and use of gloves and masks. For additional information and training, visit: foodsafetytrainingcourses.com/jacksonville_florida_food_safety_training_course.html
- Keep group size to a minimum.
- Pack in ventilated, sanitized, bright spaces, with access to fresh water and restrooms. If outside, wear comfortable shoes, wide-brimmed hats, and sunscreen.
- Provide safety gear, including: Face masks, gloves, and disinfectant.
- Go eco-friendly with recycled materials, multi-use totes, and/or sustainable packing materials that are easily composted. Plastic tubs with lids can also be reused by schools for other activities. Remember to recycle and dispose of all trash afterward.
- Stay home if you’re feeling sick or showing any signs of illness.
Additionally, we offer the following suggestions and tips for what and how to pack.
- Inspect all packaging: Make sure all menu items are in their original packaging and intact. Be sure to check expiration dates and discard any expired foods.
- Pack heavy items first: Place heavier items at the bottom of the pack, layering up until the lightest is at the top.
- Include motivational note cards: Include a sweet, positive note in each bag for the child who gets it. Susan can provide you with a template and samples for the types of messages to include.
- Follow the menu closely: When you host a packing event, we’ll provide you with a menu that has been thoughtfully and carefully selected by our registered dieticians specifically for children ages 4-12. Pack one item from each of the categories to ensure a well-balanced, healthy meal. Fresh fruit is welcome, but must be wiped down and packaged separately, and delivered immediately.
- Avoid these foods: Do not include items that require cooking, hot water, microwave use or have sharp pull tops. Do not include foods that are high in sugar, sodium, or preservatives. Do not include large cans or bulk items.
Through the work of our dedicated volunteers, and using these best practices, we can make sure our most vulnerable children here on the First Coast will have weekends filled with healthy, delicious food.