Knapsacks for Kids Food Drive Kickoff: Area Churches and Residents ‘Stuff the Bus’ to End Local Childhood Hunger

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Melissa Betts

CULLMAN – On Monday, the week long Knapsacks for Kids Food Drive began. Local citizens and area churches have come together to work towards putting a stop to childhood hunger in Cullman County. A colorful school bus decorated with bright flashing lights sits in the Save-A-Lot parking lot, awaiting residents to 'Stuff the Bus' with either food or money. All donations will go to feed school children while not in school and over the weekends.

This is the first year the Knapsacks for Kids ministry has done such a large food drive. Each night during the week, between 6-8 p.m. there will be entertainment, fellowship and loads of fun. Skip Bondur with StufftheBus.org will camp outside, on top of the bus, the whole week as part of the food drive.

“I’m the guinea pig – the guy that gets to live in the cage,” Skip said with a grin. “So sometime tonight I will go up on the roof of the bus and will stay up there until the bus is full of food. I’ll be there rain or shine and 24 hours a day!”

There was plenty of work to be done each night. The biggest chore was sorting and boxing up the food as it was being dropped off. It took a lot of people to keep everything running smoothly.

“We are volunteers from Northbrook Baptist Church,” said Holly Dodd. “We [Dodd, Sashari Caretti and Meg Morrow] are in Josh Caretti’s Sunday school class and we just came out here to give our time by taking up money, food donations or whatever we can do to make sure these kids get the food that they need. We are sorting food while our kids are outside the door at Save-A-Lot asking people for donations and waving flyers. There will be different churches volunteering each night and will be doing what we are doing.”

‘Stuff the Bus’ is a well-loved ministry here in Cullman. To low income parents it is a Godsend, and to many it’s a way of helping others in need.

“We met a special little girl named Brooklyn who is a 5-year-old kindergarten student at the Primary School. She has noticed food insecurity in her classroom,” said Melissa Betts, director of children’s ministries at First United Methodist Church. “She came home this week and talked to her mom about a child in her class who had talked about not having enough food at home. Her parents have been talking to her about how they could help, not necessarily just that child, but how could they help her help in a big way. So her mom started talking to her about this opportunity, and that we worked with school children, and so she has taken our food list and has just dropped off two buggies full of food!”

Hunger is a horrible thing. Unfortunately, there are many children that have no other choice but to go to bed hungry right here in Cullman County. The Knapsacks for Kids ministry needs as much help from the community as they can get. To make a donation of food, contact Melissa Betts at the First United Methodist Church office at 256-734-6690 or e-mail mbetts@cullmanfumc.com. The 'Stuff the Bus' event ends April 26. This is a great opportunity for thrifty shoppers, couponers, or anyone that likes to keep an eye out for deals, and also enjoys giving back to their community.

STUFF THE BUS PACKING LIST
All items, unless otherwise *noted, should be individually packaged or wrapped. These larger items are to aide for the entire week.  In cases where there are younger siblings at home, we provide food for these children as well, so individual packages allow us to fit all items in one backpack. GLASS CONTAINERS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED. Please look for items packaged in plastic instead.
 
BREAKFAST OPTIONS
Cereal- Individual servings
Pancake Mix in the pouch, NOT box
Syrup*  small bottles
Peanut Butter & Jelly Mixed* (plastic  jars only)
Instant Oatmeal- individual packets
Cereal Bars- Granola,  fruit, chocolate, Pop tarts, etc.

Fruit:
Fruit Cups- (ANY- apple, orange, mixed, etc.) 
Raisins or CranRaisins – individual packs

Drink Options:
Juice Boxes- any types
Bottled water/Flavor Packs
Hot Chocolate Packets
Gatorade/Powerade- individual bottles only
Shelf Stable Milk- individual juice box style
Presweetened Kool-aid Mix (multi or single)

LUNCH/DINNER OPTIONS
Soups:  Chicken, Beef Stew, Vegetable, Tomato
Meal Cups:  Noodle Cups, Mac & Cheese, Italian Flavors, Beans & Franks, Ramen Noodle pks, Rice, etc.
Canned Meat:  Vienna Sausage, Tuna, Spam
Crackers:  Graham, Saltines, Butter Rounds (Boxes with Sleeves)

SNACK OPTIONS
Microwave Popcorn
Pudding Cups
Small Packs of Crackers/Cookies
Gummies
Little Debbie Type Pastry