Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 4, 2018

Charity event fights childhood food insecurity


Sophomore and president of Blessings in a Backpack Sanjana Sultana works with other Knox students to help pack food for kids in Galesburg so they can have food for the weekend. (Katy Coseglia/TKS)


For senior and head of the Blessings, Blues and Brews committee Adam Davis, the upcoming event is a chance for the Knox and Galesburg communities to join forces for an important cause. The event hosted by Blessings in a Backpack will take place at Iron Spike on Wednesday, May 9. All proceeds go directly toward the organization’s mission to provide meals for food-insecure students in Galesburg elementary schools.

“It’s kind of a bridge,” Davis said. “We do smaller events on Knox’s campus and are always accepting donations from the community. This event is really where the community and Knox students can come together and work to raise money for Galesburg kids.”

From 7-10 p.m. there will be beer and wine tastings and a live auction with an entrance fee of $20. This year, the auction includes tickets for Cubs and Cardinals games and an electric Tesla kid’s car, among other donations. There will also be performances from Soulfege a cappella Choir and the Cherry Street Combo. Sophomore Sanjana Sultana, president of Blessings in a Backpack, said all proceeds go directly to buying the food that volunteers sort into backpacks each week for Galesburg elementary students.

“All the money from the fundraising event goes directly to the [international] fund, which no one else touches other than the Galesburg Blessings in a Backpack,” Sultana said. “That’s where we take all the money from and that’s what we give to the children.”

Beginning at 10 p.m., there will be a karaoke competition and free photo booth. Tickets for this part of the night are $5. Knox student organizations that sell at least 20 tickets can have their name displayed on the promotional Blessings, Blues and Brews banner in Iron Spike. The more tickets a group sells, the larger their name will be printed.

Blessings in a Backpack currently provides food for 436 elementary school children every weekend for the entire school year. The organization must raise $40,000 each year to purchase enough food. Last year, Blessings, Blues and Brews raised $17,000. Chair of Educational Studies and Blessings in a Backpack faculty advisor Joel Estes said sponsorships from Galesburg businesses play a significant role in the event’s success. Blessings in a Backpack has already raised $8,000 from community sponsors alone.

“I think the thing people get is [that] this is money that goes directly back into the community and it’s for our kids and in so many of these situations children don’t have a choice,” Estes said. “They’re hungry and there’s not really a way out for them.”

Blessings in a Backpack is run entirely by volunteers. Knox students pack 436 backpacks at the First Presbyterian Church every Tuesday night. On Friday, the backpacks are delivered to elementary schools where children distribute them to their classmates. Davis has witnessed the direct impact the program can have on children’s lives while student teaching at Steele Elementary School last fall. About 10 of Davis’ students received a backpack every week.

“That really drove it home for me, how important it was to the kids and to the community,” Davis said.

Blessings in a Backpack helps children at Steele Elementary School on the southwest side of Galesburg, Nielson Elementary on the far east side and King Elementary on the southeast side. These schools are located in a food desert, with most grocery stores and Galesburg’s two food pantries being located on the north side of town. This limits families’ access to nutritious food in particular.

“It’s not just not having food, the food they have access to is processed food, junk they get at the Quickie and who does that affect most? Kids. They don’t have a choice,” Estes said.

Parents of these students often have few options when it comes to feeding their families. When Blessings in a Backpack began serving Galesburg seven years ago, it offered its 42 recipients ramen noodles, Fruit Roll-Ups and other processed snack foods. The packs now include granola bars, apples, oatmeal and other foods that are nutritious, transportable and easy to prepare. The apples, donated by Knox students, are particularly popular with the kids.

“Every week we put fresh apples in the bags and those apples are donated by Knox students using their meal swipes,” Estes said. “So if a student turns in one meal swipe, that equates to ten apples, and we hold a drive beginning of every term to get meal swipes and turn those into Bon AppŽtit.”

Blessings, Blues and Brews tickets are being sold in Seymour Gallery. Tickets for the wine and beer tasting or karaoke competition can also be bought from Blessings in a Backpack members or Estes.

Phoebe Billups, Staff Writer

Tags:  blessings in a backpack charity childhood hunger food insecurity fundraiser

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