Maryland City Elementary's Backpack Buddies program gets local support

Two Laurel-area organizations have lent their support to a good cause at Maryland City Elementary School.

On Sept. 4, the Laurel Moose Lodge donated $100 to the school's Backpack Buddies program. Two weeks later, the Laurel Rotary Club donated 15 backpacks for the same initiative.

Maryland City has had the Backpack Buddies program for three years, said Principal Karen Soneira. Every week, volunteers fill empty backpacks with food to last a weekend. Students in need take those backpacks home Friday and return the empty bags to the school on Monday.

"More than 50 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced meals," Soneira said. "We try to help, knowing that these are students in need, by extending the idea of the FARM [free and reduced meals] program to the weekend for students."

Parents have to sign permission forms for their students to receive a backpack of food, typically filled with granola bars, soup, macaroni and cheese, and noodles — things that are easy to prepare, Soneira said.

"We try to provide enough so that they'll have food for breakfast, lunch and even dinner if we can," she said.

The program relies on support from local organizations and faith-based agencies.

Currently, more than 50 students take home backpacks every weekend and, Soneira said, "That number is growing."

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