VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Bag after bag, filled with food for students.
“On Wednesdays we come in and pack groceries for students in need over the weekend,” said volunteer Doug Weinstein.
Weinstein has been a volunteer with the Beach Bags program for 5 years. It provides meals to students who would otherwise go hungry during weekends or school breaks.
“It helps them sustain themselves with a few meals til Monday morning when they get meals again back at the school,” he said.
So what’s in the bags?
Individual sized cereal boxes or oatmeal, and shelf-stable milk.
“Little cans of chunk chicken or Chef Boyardee, or spaghetti and meatballs, or tuna, those are great main meals,” said Debbie Hughes.
They also add in fruit cups or juice boxes and some snack items. Hughes, the education foundation coordinator says the program started 10 years ago.
“A lot of students who rely on our breakfast and lunch at the school aren’t necessarily getting the food they need over the weekend for whatever reason,” she said.
Hughes says the program has been successful because of the collaboration with the school division and the Virginia Beach Education Foundation.
“What we’re able to do is meet the needs of those students knowing they’re better learners if their tummies aren’t rumbling.”
Hughes says its a big undertaking.
The bags go to different schools each week, so students get the bags every three weeks.
During the 2018-2019 school year, 22,000 beach bags were distributed.
Lots of volunteers are needed every week, and food and monetary donations are always needed to keep the program going.
“If people donate food, I always remind them, think of something a first grader can open. If it’s a pop top and it’s easy to eat maybe they can just heat it up in the microwave, that’s it,” Hughes said.
She says monetary donations can go even further.
“You or I go into the grocery store, it may cost us 7 or 8 dollars to put a bag together, whereas we can do it for 3 because we work with existing wholesalers.”
Once the bags are packed, they are sent out and distributed to schools where the bags are discretely put in students’ backpacks.
“They take these plastic bags and put them in a book bag so they can carry them home and not everybody see they’re getting help for over the weekend,” said Weinstein.
Hughes says on March 19 they’re having a beach bags food drive. For more information where you can drop off food or monetary donations: www.vbschools.com/beachbags