Lawrenceville Elementary offers hope by the bagful

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Teachers at Lawrenceville Elementary and volunteers from around the community want to make sure students at the school don't go hungry, even when they're not at school.

The Bags of Hope program provides a grocery bag full of food for students to take home over the weekend.

The program, which started in October, began with just a handful of students but has grown to more than 55 young people in need. The school gives select students a bag full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pudding, granola bars, crackers and canned goods like ravioli. Program Coordinator Mandy Goodwin said it's enough for three meals a day on Saturday and Sunday.

At the end of the week, students take their bags home. The young people return their bags on Mondays to get them refilled again before the weekend.

"We knew there was a need because so much of our student population were moving from hotel to hotel with their parents, and some of them were telling their teachers how hungry they were," Goodwin said. "We wanted to help these kids excel academically, but it's hard to do that when their bellies are empty."

Goodwin said the school has a student population that is 93 percent free and reduced lunch eligible.

Volunteers come by the school every week to pack weekend meals for the students.

JoAnn Nelson comes by once a week with friends from Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church. She said the church group was looking "for a good mission project" and found it in the Bags of Hope program.

Goodwin said there has been no shortage of support from helpers like Nelson and friends. "We've been really fortunate to have so much involvement and help from the community," Goodwin said. "Without that, we wouldn't be able to keep doing this."

To volunteer to help with the program or to donate non-perishable food items, contact Goodwin at (770) 513-6879 or (770) 963-1813.