Less-fortunate students in Navarre no longer have to go without food on the weekends.
NAVARRE — Less-fortunate students in Navarre no longer have to go without food on the weekends.
Not after Michelle Abrams, president and lead volunteer of the Weekend Food Program, saw a need and stepped up to help.
"This all started because there was a program in Gulf Breeze that was delivering food to some of the schools in Navarre," Abrams said. "I thought, why isn't our own community taking care of our children?"
In August 2015, two years after learning of the Gulf Breeze food program, Abrams and a friend decided to take it upon themselves to begin feeding children in the Navarre area.
"We started with zero dollars," Abrams said. "Each of our families put in enough money to get us started. We reached out to the community and they have supported us ever since."
Abrams said the Weekend Food Program originally began with feeding just 65 students, but has since grown to feeding 450 students at all six public schools in the Navarre area.
"It starts with students who are on the free lunch program," Abrams said. "We deliver two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks in each bag every Friday. It costs $2.50 per week to feed a child."
In addition to the meals, the Weekend Food Program volunteers also add an inspirational message in hopes to encourage the students towards success.
"We never know the names or any of the circumstances, we just deliver the bag each week," Abrams said. "The messages say things like, 'You're awesome!' If there are problems in the home, then inspiration might be lacking."
This school year, the program is adding two new components — a higher quantity of food every four weeks and delivering weekday snacks to Navarre High School and Holley-Navarre Middle School.
In order to expand the new snack program into the primary and intermediate schools, Abrams is hoping to reach a $53,000 fundraising goal, which is up from the current $40,000 budget. She hopes the program will also be able to purchase a cargo van to transport the 3,000 food items each week.
Last year, after receiving a grant from the Navarre Rotary Club, the Weekend Food Program also provided hygiene products twice to all six schools in Navarre.
"We had leftover money after the grant so we shared it with My Father's Arrows in Milton," Abrams said.
Abrams said the Weekend Food Program currently has 30 to 40 volunteers who help bag and deliver food each week. She said, however, they are always looking for more.
"I just believe as a community we are called to love our neighbor, so much so the Bible says it 11 times," Abrams said. "I think it needs to be practiced on a daily basis and obviously our community does too because they've helped us reach our funds to continue."