Many people focus on charitable giving around the holidays, but Blessings in a Backpack gives all school year long.

Many people focus on charitable giving around the holidays, but Blessings in a Backpack gives all school year long.

The program provides a bag of food for students who may not have food at home to eat on the weekends.

The program began at Northwood and Edgewood elementary schools, and program coordinator Amy Zwiezinski expanded it this fall to Raymond and Navin elementary schools.

"This is my fourth year running the Marysville chapter of the nationwide Blessings in a Backpack program and I have been serving Edgewood and Northwood schools since 2012," she said.

About 75 students have received weekend bags of food for the past three years. The addition of two more schools has taken the need up to 130 students, although it fluctuates because participants can sign up during the school year.

"I am thrilled with the reaction from the staff, students and families and the support of the community with the growth that we have experienced," Zwiezinski said. "I am excited to add the new schools and expand the program to reach more children in our community."

Students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price meal program are eligible for Blessings in a Backpack.

"Each weekend of the school year, the children receive a bag, and over the school breaks I make sure that the schools have the bags to hand out the day or two before the holiday break," Zwiezinski said. "The staff at the schools have been so awesome helping to distribute the bags, holding food drives and working with me. I truly appreciate all their support."

Zwiezinski decided to expand the program because she saw a need. The community has responded in kind, helping to keep the bags full of food each weekend.

"I use a combination of monetary donations and food donations for the bags," she said. "Through the national office for the program, I have a specific fund that when I fundraise or have monetary donations, they are only able to be used in our community. This ensures that people who give are truly helping children in Marysville. Also, there are grants, benefit events and food drives that are given or held in Marysville by various organizations for Blessings in a Backpack."

Proceeds from this year's Great Pumpkin Drop, for example, benefited the organization.

Children take home items such as juice, fruit, cereal bars and oatmeal. They get a bag with more food for breaks and something special for the holidays, Zwiezinski said.

"Each school break I try to send home extra items, such as canned veggies, macaroni and cheese, larger boxes of cereal, peanut butter, noodle/rice meals, juice, breakfast drinks, and I try to make sure they receive some sort of treat item -- for example, hot chocolate or candy canes for the Christmas holiday," she said.

While the program is going well, Zwiezinski said she always needs donations and volunteers to lend a hand.

"I am always in need of volunteers to help pack bags, drop off or pick up totes from the schools, or even donate funds, plastic grocery bags or food items," she said.

To get involved or make a donation, contact Zwiezinski at azwiezinski@icloud.com or via the Blessings in a Backpack Marysville Facebook page.