Forty-six of those students qualify under the McKinney-Vento Assistant Act and another 35 could benefit from the backpack program, school officials say.
For some time now, the Bedford County Department of Education has worked with the local United Way to discreetly provide these children a healthy and nutritious food package on Friday afternoons.
This program has enjoyed community support from several groups in the form of donations and assistance channeled through United Way in addition to various grants.
But the grants have expired and with the increase to over 80 youths, the funding has been running very thin, according to program coordinators.
School social workers say donations of funds and appropriate food products are needed, welcomed, and appreciated greatly.
Recently, with the funding shortage materializing, the timing of this situation was critical to the extended holiday break the schools take in December and January.
"In this case, we were still trying to provide these children additional assistance during the 19 days they are out for the holiday," said Richard Smith, program spokesperson.
"The church's response was overwhelmingly positive, but the sheer magnitude of 85 food boxes each containing 19 days worth of specialized food began to sink in."
Once the numbers were tabulated, the food order totaled 3,400 pounds and $6,735. Smith said it became clear that more resources would be needed.
"In true Bedford County volunteer fashion Jostens donated the actual boxes while Traders Bank backed the order from Smith & Son Grocery who sold everything at wholesale cost," Smith said. "First Presbyterian Church, Edgemont Baptist Church, Living Stones Church, and Calvary Baptist Church each held fundraising to pool together to settle the food bill, while the youth groups from First Presbyterian, Living Stones, and First Christian Church gathered on Sunday, Dec. 9 to spend two hours assembling and packing each of the boxes into the truck/trailer from Select Trailer Co. for delivery the next morning to the school social work office."
Kentucky Fried Chicken donated a voucher for a hot meal to every youth and Davis Dental contributed tooth brushes.
Kristin Conley, volunteer youth leader at First Presbyterian, stated, "The support from so many different churches and businesses for this cause has been unbelievable. Virtually everyone we've asked has helped, and we've had help from some that just heard through word of mouth.
"I know there can always be more, but at least every one of the children impacted by this will have their very own box of food that they can count on for the holiday break."
For more information on helping to support and continue the BackPack program, contact United Way of Bedford County at (931) 684-6685, Marie McLean at firstname.lastname@example.org, Cynthia Cox at email@example.com or Terry Looper, Supervisor of Student Services, Bedford County Department of Education (931) 684-3284 ext. 2210.