MESA, Ariz. - A local non-profit organization is helping to make sure children return to school ready and able to learn.
Arizona Brainfood was started by Ruth Collins, a mother in Mesa. Her organization has now expanded to something pretty extraordinary and thousands of students here in the Valley are getting some much needed help.
Collins' idea was to give students a discrete bag of food to take home on Fridays to ensure they didn't miss a meal over the weekend.
"About 12 years ago, she was alerted to a situation where there were kids coming to school on a Monday and having a really hard time focusing and concentrating and it turns out they were hungry," said Volunteer Coordinator Heidi Bathea.
From that first bag 12 years ago to now, 3,600 bags per weekend -- in all those years, close to 800,000 bags were distributed.
Bathea says once a week, volunteers pack the bags full of shelf-stable foods and snacks.
"About twice a month, we have little mini-loaves of fresh bread that go home with the kids. On the days that we don't have the bread, we have little mini-tortillas and once a month, they get fresh bananas."
From there, the volunteers transport the bags to the 125 participating schools where a school liaison will then pass out the items.
Bathea credits the success of the program to generous volunteers and donors. It's because of them that thousands of students are eating on the weekends who might otherwise not have.
"$5 can feed a child for an entire weekend. So consider that. It doesn't have to be a huge contribution to help one child."
The group was hit very hard by COVID-19 and had a difficult time reaching students, but the numbers are going up, which means more kids are getting the food.
Arizona Brainfood is a non-profit and they rely strictly on donations.