Panda Packs, an outreach program of the Episcopal Church of The Advent, Madison, Georgia, provides over-the-weekend food for children at the Morgan County Primary School who qualify for the federal Free Lunch program. Advent's program began in 2009. It has been a successful and rewarding experience for Advent as well as for many others outside our parish who volunteer their time, talents, and funds.
Every Friday morning during the school year, volunteers meet at Advent's Parish House to fill bags with nutritious, child-friendly food. The bags are then delivered to the school where they are discreetly distributed by the teachers. Extra food supplies are sent to last over long-weekend holidays.
Panda Packs (named for the Madison Primary School mascot) is modeled after the backpack program of Feeding America that began in 1995 in Arkansas when a school nurse, after noticing signs of hunger in school children, realized they were not receiving enough to eat when school was not in session. Feeding America now has 2,200 programs across the country feeding 90,000 children. Panda Packs, as well as other independent backpack programs, provides this service knowing that a healthy child is a happier child and better student.
Approximately 50% of the children in the Morgan County School System qualify for the Free Lunch program; some of them need more assistance than others. Some students, who receive Panda Packs, have been identified by their teachers or counselors as being in particular need and we try to meet those special needs. We are currently distributing 60+ bags per week, but that number goes up as students are added throughout the school year and each new school year. The siblings of those students are also included, so many children in the program carry home 3 or 4 bags each weekend.
The cost per child is approximately $110.00 per year. Proceeds to purchase the food are contributed by the Episcopal Church as well as many other churches, civic organizations, and individuals. The food is purchased locally on a weekly basis by a team of seven shoppers. Panda Packs also relies on the help of many volunteers to pack and distribute the bags of food to the school. The first Friday of the month is covered by Middle School special needs students, the second and fourth Fridays are covered by High School special needs students, and the third Friday of the month is covered by the MOMS Club. Each Friday the packing groups meet at the Parish House early in the morning usually by 8:30 or 8:45.
For more information, or help with beginning your own backpack program please contact Church of The Advent at 706-342-4787 or E-mail us at