It's a sad reality in the Grand Valley -- hundreds of kids are going hungry at home. But now a local non-profit and church are teaming up to change that -- and they're asking for your help.
Mike Berry says it all began after talking with elementary and middle school principals. He learned that several of their students main source of sustenance was the free lunches they received at school.
"A lot of kids out there have their last meal Friday and don't eat again until Monday at lunch," said Berry. "Either because of parental addiction, parents working on the weekends, not being home, or just financial problems."
So he decided to do something about it.
"It just hardly seems fair that a child in this country should go hungry," said Berry.
Berry started Kids Aid, a non-profit organization that fills backpacks with food, then delivers them to kids in need at their schools. He says he started out helping a few dozen kids -- but the longer he and other volunteers delivered the backpacks, the more they realized this was no small problem and they were going to have to do more.
"I don't think people realize the need," said Berry. "I know I certainly didn't."
That's when Canyon View Vineyard Church stepped in.
"Hunger is out there," said Jackie McBride, a CVVC volunteer. "We're trying to address it."
The church offered to take on hundreds of students at other schools that Kids Aid hadn't yet reached. Every Thursday, volunteers gather at the church to stuff the backpacks full of bread, peanut butter, juice, snacks, and proteins, among other things. Then, every Friday the backpacks are delivered to seven schools in the Grand Valley.
"Between the two organizations, we're doing about five-hundred thirty backpacks," said Berry. "And we haven't even really scratched the surface yet."
But the groups say the response they've received from the children and families they help shows they're having an impact. Berry's wife, who is a teacher at one of the schools, says she has one student who lights up when his backpack is brought to him.
"He says, it's food day, it's food day! I get food today!" said Berry. "He's just excited as heck."
The letters the kids write to the volunteers echo those same things.
"It was just a real blessing to look at the notes and know that the children know somebody out there cares for their situation," said McBride.
But they say there are still many kids out there who don't know that -- which is why they need more help.
"We could take this thing as big as the whole district if we had the financial support to do it," said Berry.
"Whoever wants to be involved, we'll find a spot for them," said McBride.
The groups say they hope to get more churches involved, by having them adopt an individual school. They say it's a way to make sure no child in Mesa County ever has to go hungry.
"It's been a little bit of work getting it started, but the reward is worth every effort," said McBride.
For information or to find out how you can help, you can contact:
Mike Berry, Kids Aid
Vicki McGee, Canyon View Vineyard Church