RIFA prepares for annual ‘Pack the Bus’ food drive on Saturday

JACKSON, Tenn. — Saturday is RIFA’s “Pack the Bus,” an annual food fundraiser for their Snack Backpack program.

There will be school buses parked at all Kroger and Walmart locations in Jackson from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Volunteers will be giving out grocery lists, collecting food and monetary donations, and loading the buses.

“Our mission here at RIFA is to reach out with the love of Christ to provide both physical and spiritual nourishment,” said Executive Director Lisa Tillman. “And the Snack Backpack program is one of the ways that we do that by providing food for elementary school children to take home with them for Saturday and Sunday until they return to school on Monday.”

“On the weekends when the children don’t have food, when they return to school on Monday, whether they have a test or, you know, a big project coming up, they can’t perform to their greatest ability because they have not fed their brain,” said Miss Tennessee Lauren Dickson.

The Snack Backpacks provide food for an average of 1,300 students every week. Each backpack provides children with six meals and two snacks.

“In the last three months, we’ve seen a 93% increase in the number of people that are coming in for services, and that would be food assistance,” Tillman said. “So yes, I absolutely anticipate an increase in the number of students that we’re asked to serve.”

Items needed include Pop-Tarts, Ramen noodles, microwavable popcorn, apple sauce, oatmeal, chicken noodle soup, macaroni and cheese, and ravioli.

“The food costs have increased for us as well,” Tillman said. “So what it takes to make a Snack Backpack, that cost has increased, so all the more reason why we need the community support to keep this going.”

The food will be transported back to RIFA to be sorted and assembled into backpacks by volunteers. The volunteers will then distribute the backpacks to 13 different schools where the children will receive them.

Miss Tennessee Lauren Dickson’s social impact initiative is “Heart for the Hungry.” She hopes to help America overcome food insecurity.

“I hope that we are so busy that I leave that event exhausted,” said Dickson. “I want to see children, I want to see people of all ages coming out to support this because it is really something that everyone can be involved in.”

Dickson says this is also a great opportunity to introduce volunteerism to kids.

“It’s a great opportunity to, you know, teach them what food insecurity is and what the backpack program is,” Dickson said. “So that they can go in and, you know, help purchase mac and cheese for someone who doesn’t get that on the weekend.”

Click here for more information on donating to the cause. If you’re interested in volunteering, call (731) 427-7963.

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