MASON, W.Va. — For some children, breakfast and lunch at school might be their only meals of the day.
So what happens on weekends when school is not in session?
Mason United Methodist Church has been providing needy children at New Haven Elementary School with bags of food to cover Saturdays and Sundays for more than four years. And now, through a partnership with the Mason Chapter 157 Order of the Eastern Star, providing that food just got a little easier.
Etta Richardson, a church member and the food program organizer, said 24 students at the school are served weekly. She said the school administration chooses the students and gets permission from the parents. The names of the children remain anonymous to the church members.
The program costs anywhere between $400 to $500 every three to four weeks. In the past, the funds have come from church members, individual donors, and donations from groups and industry, such as AEP Mountaineer plant and Smith-Capehart American Legion Post 140.
This year, the West Virginia Eastern Star has taken on school food programs as its state project. Chapters are encouraged to support their most local project, which for the Mason chapter is the one at New Haven Elementary.
Jeannie Roush, worthy matron of the Mason chapter, said members will be bringing food for donation each month through the end of the year. Their first delivery to the church recently was greatly appreciated.
Richardson said she was pleased with the full shelves in the church stockroom. She, along with Donna Arnold, Leota Dingey, and Barbara Mayfield gathered Tuesday morning at the church to pack the food bags.
The women said all the food given out is easy-open, and usually fully cooked, so even young children can heat and prepare it.
“We don’t know how much help these children get at home,” Richardson said. “We want to give them things they can do themselves, without having to cook them.”
She said each food bag normally has 10 to 12 items, three or four of which are things such as macaroni and cheese, cans of soup, pasta and chili, or Ramen noodles. Breakfast items can include individual bowls or boxes of cereal, oatmeal, pastry or cereal bars. The remainder of the food consists of drinks and snacks like fruit bowls, fruit gummies, brownies and snack cakes.
The bags are never finished off without a printed Bible story being included. Richardson said the stories are easy enough for the children to understand, but she hopes the adults read them as well.
After the bags are packed, they are delivered to the school where teachers discreetly make sure the students receive them on Fridays.
Anyone wishing to make monetary or food donations to the program can contact the church at 304-773-5211.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County, W.Va.