ROLLA, Mo. – What started as one woman’s passion is now several Rolla community members. Faith Barnes is known around town as a lady who is always trying to help others, especially helping the lives of hundreds of hungry kids.
10 years ago Faith Barnes started the Hope Alliance Friday Backpack program while working at Rolla Middle School.
“I saw the absolute devastation that hunger has on these children so I really wanted to feed kids because I know how hunger effects them academically, physically, socially,” said Barnes.
As a little girl, Barnes spent summers at her grandmothers.
“There were lots of us living in a house sometimes nine to 11 people and I just was very hungry when I stayed with her,” Barnes said.
She said her grandma was generous, a trait community members agree was passed down to Faith.
“I’ve felt the belly hunger but I’ve never felt the deep effects of absolute hungers that these families have experienced,” said Barnes.
When the program first began it fed 14 children. Now it feeds more than 400 every single week.
“It takes about $5 to $6 per week to fill a bag. So our food budget is about $75,000-90,000 a year,” Barnes said.
A small price for a community full of eager volunteers with large hearts.
“We don’t take any state or federal funding it’s strictly donations from our community and foundations,” said Barnes.
Barnes said the food bags give the students a little bit of hope, that relieves the high level of stress and anxiety they face.
“One lady wrote a couple years ago thank you for making my boy feel special because he got food,” Barnes said.
Quarterly the food bags contain hygiene and school supplies, things some students often go without.
“A couple years ago a hotel donated a couple of bars of soap so we put those in the bag and a little girl came to her teacher she was so excited she was like this is the first bar of soap I’ve ever had on my own,” said Barnes.
She said it’s the small things people take for granted that can help impact the lives of so many children.
“There’s an 80 percent decrease in office visits it just is incredible. So these kids are in the classroom learning instead of being in the nurse’s office for ailments that they truly have.”