Samaritan Kitchen of Wilkes’s mission is to provide food for hundreds of hungry school children in Wilkes County, North Carolina, through backpacks filled with food for the weekend. Imagine a county with approximately 3,000 school children who, each Friday, do not know if they will get any food before Monday. Their poverty forces their parents to choose between paying the electric bill, paying the rent, or buying food. The county school system can feed them from Monday to Friday, but they cannot help on Saturday and Sunday. Michigan State University did a research study of hunger relief programs. This research concluded that hunger was the area’s most pressing unmet need. The research had not revealed starvation, but “had found hunger’s fingerprints everywhere.” It didn’t matter where they looked or what issue they looked into, hunger Hunger’s reach was always lurking in the shadows, having either caused or at least having exacerbated the problem. Problem pregnancies and the incidence of premature low birthweight high-risk babies often linked back to poor prenatal nutrition. Kids too listless or restless to pay attention to their lessons in school often tracked back to the fact that they were simply too hungry to care. In altogether too many classrooms school lunch was the only predictable food in many children’s lives. Teens living in what is now known as “food insecurity” were much more likely to have health problems, get into trouble, use drugs or alcohol, drop out of school and attempt suicide than were teens that have reliable food access. This county is Wilkes County, North Carolina. It has one of the worst childhood hunger problems in the country. A few years ago, that dream became a reality in the form of Samaritan Kitchen of Wilkes (SKW). SKW’s founders were alarmed and concerned about the hunger problem with our children. As a result, the SKW founders put their heads together and created a rescue model that was unheard of in Wilkes. This model was to purchase food, pack it in bags to be picked up by one teacher or school counselor from each school and discretely placed in qualified children’s backpacks. Each bag would provide six meals each weekend so that the children are not starving on Monday morning and can concentrate of learning. The model is simple, and it works! In 2016 and 2017, SKW partnered with the school system and provided 640 backpacks of food each school weekend and has helped change the face of hunger in Wilkes. Because of its innovative program and the thousands of hours invested by SKW’s volunteers and teachers, there is now hope in Wilkes for our children. Here are some of the teachers’ comments: “My students eagerly await their food bags each week. Several have mentioned that the food in the bags is the only meals they get over the weekend.” “You would not believe the kids that stop and ask me at times when they will be getting their food bag. So many kids do not have enough food at home and this is something that really helps the children over the weekend. Without that food bag they would most likely not have much food at all to eat, if any. This makes a huge difference for some of our students, many of whom do not have stable meals unless they are at school.” “About four years ago I had a student to wrap his cheese sandwich up and hand it to me. He said, ‘Will you save this so I can take it home this afternoon so when my stomach hurts tomorrow I will have something to eat.’” “Students who need this program are not always certain there will be food enough for everyone in their home each day. Just knowing you will have food over the weekend is a huge stress reducer for these kids. They can concentrate on being a kid and on school.” Wilkes is still a long way from losing its title of being one of the worst cities for homeless animals in the country, and SKW still has much more work to do. With your donation, you will become part of a movement that is making a real, cognizable, and significant impact in the number of hungry children in Wilkes County. Please donate to help us continue (and even intensify) that impact and help keep the dream a reality!