Bulldog Bags Inc., a new non-profit in town, is helping to make sure local school children have plenty to eat.
Bulldog Bags are filled with food -- two breakfasts, two lunches and two entrees -- and will go home with qualifying students in the Stow-Munroe Falls school district on the last Friday of each month. The program is expected to begin Jan. 29 and spokesperson Laura Root noted the March bag will be distributed March 18 due to spring break.
"Many communities have this program," Root said. "In the last couple years, school counselors have found it necessary to come to the food pantry at United Methodist Church [to get food for their students.]"
Root says the idea really took off after a student moved from Akron to Stow.
"He always got bag of food on Fridays and wanted to know where his food was," she said.
She also mentioned a third-grader in the district who had lined up to go to music class. "He was crying, saying he couldn't go to music because he was hungry," Root said. "When his teacher asked what he had for dinner, he said 'nothing.'
"Working in the food pantry at our church introduced me to whole segment of Stow I never knew about. We need to help those kiddos."
Root said they are trying to make the food as healthy as possible.
Examples include oatmeal, cereal bars, canned soup, macaroni and cheese and Vienna sausages.
"Everything will be disposable and non-breakable," she said. "The items included are based on what 5-year-olds could serve themselves."
Volunteers also plan to add hygiene items, like toothpaste or toothbrushes, to the bags.
The school district will decide who gets the bags and is currently sending out letters to the families of students in the six elementary schools who would qualify for the program, Root said.
The schools will have a written plan for distributing the bags to the children in a confidential manner to protect the privacy of the children.
"We are so fortunate to be surrounded by local community members and organizations that help our students," said Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools Superintendent Tom Bratten. "This is a wonderful community that looks out for everyone and I am glad to be a part of it. It's essential for our students to have the food and nutrients they need to concentrate and achieve their best."
Gary Spring, a University of Akron Law professor, volunteered his time to complete a 501(c)(3) application process. Bulldog Bags Inc. officially became a non-profit in October, which allows them to work with the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank.
Bill Flinta, representing the Stow-Munroe Falls Kiwanis Club, said the group's volunteers come from local churches, service organizations, the city, the schools, plus numerous individuals.
"I like projects where we get a broad representation of the community," he said.
"We are definitely feeling the community behind the program," Root said. "We are just starting out, but who knows where it can go. Next year we hope to expand to fifth- and sixth-graders and maybe offer bags more times each month."
There is a page, Bulldog Bags Inc.. on Facebook for updates and more information.
Bulldog Bags Inc. will be housed at Stow City Hall for the time being. Those interested in helping to assemble the bags each month should email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone wishing to help financially can send donations to Bulldog Bags Inc., P.O. Box 1475, Stow 44224.