- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Maximus and Matthew Parks are too young to help with bills that have piled up since their mom got sick and lost her eyesight. But the Larkspur seventh-graders do have one trick up their sleeve.

Or rather, in their bag.

The twins are beneficiaries of the school division’s Beach Bags program, which provides food on weekends to needy students from elementary through high school. The items in each bag range from cereal to ravioli to juice boxes.

Maximus and Matthew come home on Fridays beaming with the pride of bringing something to the table.

Their contribution to the family of eight is in danger of ending abruptly, though. The 5-year-old program has run low on donations and money because of a number of factors. There’s only enough food to fill 20 bags. That’s 205 short of what’s needed for the following week’s distribution.

Beach Bags is yet another casualty of the harsh winter. An annual food drive usually held in January had to be postponed this year because of weather, said Eileen Cox, director of communications and community engagement for the schools.

The program depends on donations alone and is not supported by school money.

Beach Bags continues the mission it started as an offshoot of a food bank program for the division’s Title I students in 2009. School officials saw that the need went beyond those schools and that hunger was affecting students across the city. Now, 55 of the city’s 81 schools are served by the food program.

Despite a slight economic recovery, demand for food has increased among families struggling to get back on their feet, she said.

In the first year of the program, 3,670 bags were given out. With nearly three months left, 4,704 have been distributed so far this year.

To continue at its current rate of about 225 bags per week until the end of the school year, $20,475 in donations are needed.

“We aren’t anywhere close to that,” Cox said.

Without the program, Matthew and Maximus would suffer because it’s hard enough putting food on the table, said their mother, Carrie Parks.

“It’s what gets us through the weekend and between meals,” she said.

“When I say it’s been a tremendous blessing, I really mean it.”

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WANT TO HELP OUT?

To donate, food may be dropped off at the school administration building. Checks should be made out to Virginia Beach Education Foundation and sent to 2512 George Mason Drive. For more information, call (757) 263-1936, or go to tinyurl.com/VaBeachBags.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com


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