MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Poverty is a reality for many families in north Alabama. Often times, that means children go without something they really need - food. A group of volunteers are trying to tackle that issue as best they can.
Sometimes the meals kids get at school are the only ones they get period. The non-profit organization, Lunches of Love, aims to make sure kids don't go hungry once they go home on the weekends.
The rustling of plastic bags fills a room at First Baptist Church in Meridianville. Volunteers are busy packing them. While they're loaded up with things like juice boxes, raisins and peanut butter. they're also filled with love.
"I believe until we show them love ourselves, then nothing else really matters," says Lunches of Love Co-Founder Jenda Hillis.
Hillis is a special education teacher at Hazel Green Elementary School. She often sees children at the school struggle with hunger.
"There are so many children in Madison County Schools that don't have food in their homes," explains Hillis. "They get free meals at school or reduced meals, but when they go home on the weekends or the evenings, they don't have anything to eat."
Hillis is hoping to change that.
"Our goal for Lunches of Love is that we can provide that food for them," says Hillis.
After the volunteer group prays over the lunch bags, they're loaded up and taken to the participating schools.
Madison Cross Roads Elementary is one of the schools on the receiving end.
"It is greatly beneficial," says Jamie Byrd, a guidance counselor at the school. "to have something that we know they can fix, they don't have to wait is remarkable.
Byrd says the need is great and so is this program.
"It's very easy to get attached to these kids and it's very difficult to let them go knowing that they may or may not have something to eat," says Byrd. "It's a sense of relief."
The program also creates a sense of excitement for the kids.
"I like the macaroni and cheese," says 11-year-old Arielle. "The apple sauce is one of my favorites."
Lunches of Love runs off donated time and money, so they could really use $319. It's cash that counts.
"This money will feed our kids for a week and then some," says Hillis. "That's a lot of homes that you're getting into and we appreciate it."
Lunches of Love provides about 300 weekend meal bags a week to children in nine different Madison County schools. Ultimately, the organization hopes to expand the program to cover all the county schools.