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Blair joins Smart Sacks to combat childhood hunger

Volunteers provide elementary school children with weekend meals

By David Zheng, Online Entertainment Editor
October 20, 2007
Blair is participating in the Smart Sacks program this year to help fight childhood hunger throughout Montgomery County. Each week, Blair volunteers provide selected Piney Branch Elementary School students with backpacks full of food, according to Ilene Catzva, media center specialist.
Catzva's Smart Sacks club fills donated backpacks with food for needy children at Piney Branch Elementary School.  Julia Seiger
Catzva's Smart Sacks club fills donated backpacks with food for needy children at Piney Branch Elementary School.

Manna Food Center, a non-profit organization based in Montgomery County, designed the Smart Sacks program in an effort to end hunger in the county. Corporations and other donors in the program pair up with local elementary schools, according to Manna's web site. Each corporation provides volunteers who fill backpacks with food from the Manna Food Center and deliver the sacks to their partner elementary school for distribution to the school's disadvantaged students. Currently, fifteen elementary schools around the county are receiving help from the program.

Catzva is heading Blair's Smart Sacks Club, which met for the first time on Oct. 10. Blair is the only high school participating in Smart Sacks, along with corporations such as Calvert Group, United Health Care and MCT Federal Credit Union, according to Karen Goldberg, Manna's Smart Sack Coordinator.

Every Wednesday, Catzva and volunteers fill donated backpacks with 10 to 12 nutritious items such as tuna fish, chicken noodle soup and cereal. Catzva delivers these backpacks to Piney Branch on Thursday. On Friday, 15 to 20 children selected by a Piney Branch counselor pick up the backpacks so that they will have food for the weekend. The students bring back the packs on Monday to be refilled for the next week.

The Smart Sacks club is short on volunteers. Only one student showed up to the club's first meeting, and Catzva hopes more students will join soon. "I am offering community service hours," she said. "I hope that students here will see it as an opportunity to participate in the community."

Despite a slow beginning, Catzva has a lot planned for the future of the Smart Sacks club. In addition to the food, Catzva plans to add a book or school supplies to each backpack periodically. "Instead of just food every week, they'll have something else to look forward to," she said.

Catzva also plans on organizing fundraising activities such as pizza sales to help Manna offset the cost of the program. According to Catzva, Manna needs $180 to provide food to one child once every week for a year.