Craig PBJ program helps kids, needs help | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig PBJ program helps kids, needs help

CRAIG — When hunger becomes a habit for children, they experience lifelong consequences born by society, and that's one reason Love In the Name of Christ of the Yampa Valley believes its Peanut Butter and Jelly Program is essential to area children.

"It breaks my heart that there are kids that don't have enough food to eat," said Volunteer Kathy Bockelman. "It's a vicious cycle that can lead to so many other things."

The negative impacts of hunger have prompted organizations across the state to create the Colorado Blue Print to End Hunger.

"We know that food insecurity, a condition where individuals or families lack access to sufficient food because of limited resources, is strongly linked with poor health outcomes and higher health care costs and utilization. Additionally, food insecurity is directly tied to educational outcomes and school readiness in children," reads the introduction to the Blue Print, released Jan. 17.

Closer to home, the PBJ program gives 100 to 120 children, who have been identified by the schools as food insecure, a bag filled with items that provide 2,800 to 4,000 nutritious calories to keep them going through the weekend.

This time of year, the program that helps feed some of the city's littlest citizens — preschool through middle-school age children — needs a little help of its own.

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"Funds are a little on the low side. We've already used up the funds that we had for 2017," said Love INC. Executive Director Pat Jones. "We won't hear about some of the grants until April. We're going to keep going until the board tells me to quit spending."

Last year, the organization provided more than 3,000 bags. This year, the need seems to be greater, leaving Jones worried that, without community support, the board might tell her to put the program on pause.

Jones spends about $4 to $5 per bag. That means $50 usually funds 10 bags, and about $600 is needed to buy food to fill bags for a week. In total, it costs about $2,400 a month to keep the program going.

Besides cash donations, there are plenty of other ways to help. Love INC. is accepting volunteers to help prepare the bags, create small food drives and donate suitable food.

"A single classroom can do a food drive, or families might consider spending an extra $10 to buy a few extra items," Jones said.

In combination with weekday, after-school and summer food programs offered to children, the PBJ weekend program is helping fight childhood hunger right here at home.

"If you look at the statistics, you can see what hunger does to children," Jones said. "It can last their entire lives. Kids can't focus and get good grades. They end up in lower paying jobs, and it all starts by being hungry in preschool."

Jones has applied for additional grant dollars.

In the meantime, "We were hoping that, if more people in the community were aware of this project, they might be willing to donate to this cause," Bockelman.

To learn how to help, see the "how to help" box in this story online, or call Love INC. at 970-826-4400. Telephone volunteers answer phones between 9 a.m. and noon and 2 and 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

How to help

Love INC. of the Yampa Valley is seeking help between major food drives and grant funding cycles to keep its Peanut Butter and Jelly Program going. Bags of food to feed kids on the weekend cost about $5 per bag or $50 for 10 bags. The group is also happy to accept donations of food, including the following items.

  • small or medium sized jars of peanut butter
  • peanut butter spread cups
  • cheese spread cups
  • dry cereal
  • jelly
  • fruit snacks
  • juice boxes
  • applesauce cups
  • cheese crackers
  • Ritz crackers
  • granola bars
  • energy bar
  • cereal bar
  • oatmeal packets, and other nutritious items.

To donate funds or food for the PBJ Program, drop by 656 School Street or mail checks, made out to Love INC, to P.O. Box 892, Craig, CO 81626. Donations may also be made online at loveincyampavalley.org/donations.html

Love INC can be reached by email at loveincpat@yahoo.com or by telephone at 970-836-4400. Volunteers answer phones from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.