Through Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together initiative, two Canal Winchester residents - Pam Gredicak and Jenny Butts – were selected to win two "Golden Sparks." Each winner chose the Canal Winchester community to receive $50,000 grants from Walmart to help start a local food backpack program.
Walmart awarded the $100,000 in grants to Canal Winchester Human Services (CWHS). The CWHS will receive $50,000 this year and $50,000 next year. The money must be used over three years.
"We are proud of our local community for participating in Walmart’s Golden Spark promotion. Their thoughtfulness has allowed us the opportunity to receive this grant," said Penny Miller the administrator of CWHS. "Through this funding, we will be able to provide backpacks filled with food to children in our community when school meals are not available."
The CWHS backpack program is designed to meet the needs of children by providing them with food to take home during the weekends and during breaks in the academic school year when other resources, such as free or reduced-price school meals, are not available.
The backpack program will be implemented in collaboration with Canal Winchester Schools and Bloom-Carroll Schools.
"This award cannot be used for any of our other programs or for any other purpose other than to establish a new project to provide food to children," said Miller. "This money cannot, and will not, be used in the general funds to support the food pantry or any of our other programs, such as senior transportation or Adopt A Family."
Miller said the CWHS considered starting a hunger initiative in the past year, but had no funds to support it.
"In August, we received a $2,000 grant from the United Methodist Church to start such a program and we thought that was our starting point," said Miller. "We were pleased when the WalMart grant became a reality."
Miller said a local high school group, called Youth to Youth, is one of several groups who approached the CWHS to start a project to feed children.
"One of the students involved, Nicole Tennison, spoke to me about creating a project during the summer and through these conversations, she named the project ‘Feeding Our Future,’" said Miller. "With her permission, we are naming this project just that, ‘Feeding Our Future.’"
Feeding Our Future will be available to children who are income-eligible and are registered for the free breakfast/free lunch program at their respective schools. Miller said there are more than 1,100 children in the Canal Winchester and Bloom-Carroll school districts who are income-eligible.
"So, if you spread the money out over three years as required, and you serve all 1,100 children, the math will show you that $100,000 will not go far and we will need to find more funding to make this project successful," said Miller. "We anticipate beginning this project sometime in January after we are done with Adopt A Family. We will need volunteers to help put bags together each week and support from the community to provide food to put into the bags."