by Lisa Tome
When the school day ends, that doesn't mean that school officials stop caring.
Beginning in October, North East Middle will provide weekend food for the students in need.
This program is not new to the county, but it is new to that school. North East Middle has about 760 students enrolled, many coming from Title I feeder schools. Title I schools are those with a high number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals. Currently, nearly half of the NEMS students qualify for free or reduced meals.
So now, qualified students will go home on weekends with food. The PTSO is sponsoring the Bulldog Backpacks program.
Assistant principal Shawn Johnson learned about the feeding program during a visit to Perryville Middle. That school has had a weekend feeding program for about three years.
NEMS is using Perryville as a model.
Ikea has already provided support. That company donated 75 backpacks and storage units for the feeding program which will be manned by volunteers and school staff.
They also provided seed money to purchase food. Acme Markets also donated.
Food will be distributed discreetly to selected students. The items that students will be taking home include single serving canned soup and pasta, granola bars, breakfast bars, Pop Tarts, sandwich crackers, Easy Mac, fruit and pudding cups, and single serving cereal.
Principal Denise Sopa said she is aware that some students don't have food on the weekends.
"It's hard to stop caring because they leave school," said Sopa.
She also said that students are familiar with the weekend backpack program. Some received weekend food while in elementary school.
"It might be easier to not care, but it's not better," said Johnson. "Fixing food worries for the weekend? That's a no brainer."
One of the ways that the food program will be supported, in part, is with an upcoming event.
The North East Middle PTSO will host a community yard sale on Saturday, October 10 from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Vendor spaces will be available for $10. Those who plan to sell items, must provide their own tables and chairs. Contact the school to reserve your space.
As a courtesy to vendors, at the end of the yard sale, Taylor Robertshaw will remove and dispose of items that are not sold.
Proceeds from the event will be used to meet the needs of students and families such as the purchase of school supplies, clothing, and food. "It all goes right back to the kids. We are really focused on kids who do not have what they need," said Sopa.
This is the second time the school has hosted a yard sale. They will hold them twice each year, in fall and spring.