There's a lot of anticipation throughout Summit County on Fridays for the clock to strike 5 p.m.
For nearly 140 kids in Akron, it signals the beginning of hope to survive another weekend without being extremely hungry.
A fourth-grader at Findley Academy is one of the kids in Backpacks for Kids, a program jointly run by the Salvation Army and Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank that distributes about four pounds of nutritious food supplies to each youngster each Friday during the school year.
A $2,000 grant from the Millennium Fund, which recently distributed more than $41,000 in grants to 46 agencies in the area, is the main financial source for the program.
The fourth-grader, whose name is not being disclosed for privacy reasons, is thrilled every Friday when he goes through the line with 30 or so other qualified young students at the Salvation Army and picks up a bag of food.
More than 100 additional students at Hope Academy in East Akron also are given bags of food.
The Backpacks for Kids food program, which began with 50 students in 2004 through a grant from the Akron
Community Foundation, makes a big difference to the fourth-grader's family and hundreds of other families in the Akron area every weekend.
''There isn't enough food at home to make it through the weekend and this really helps our family out,'' the Findley student said. ''And it's not just for me. I have a little sister and I end up sharing a lot of the food with her.''
Resa Lockhart, whose 9-year-old son has been in the Backpacks for Kids program for three years, is a single mom.
''It would be very tough for the kids to make it through the weekend without the program,'' Lockhart said. ''It's a great program and I love it because I know my son is getting food to eat on the weekends.''
Wendy Cross, social service director for the Summit County Salvation Army, said the problem of hungry children is big and getting bigger. There are 30,563 kids in households living below the poverty level in Summit County.
''This program could be absolutely huge because the need is so great,'' Cross said. ''Every single week, all of the food goes. And we send home more food than you think would be necessary because we know there are hungry siblings at home who will get at least some of the food.
''This program ensures that these kids from low-income families have enough food over the weekend to survive until they get back to school on Monday morning.''
There are nearly 13 million kids throughout America who are labeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as ''food insecure,'' which means they don't have enough food to meet their basic needs. And the problem is acute in Ohio, where 12.7 percent of the households are rated ''low food security.''
''The number of kids getting free and reduced meals at schools is shocking,'' said Dan Flowers, president of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. ''Most of these kids are getting both breakfast and lunch at their school during the week. But what happens over the weekend?''
The food supply originates at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. The agency uses the Millennium Fund grant and raises another $1,600 to cover the costs involved to inspect, sort, repackage and refrigerate the food.
The Salvation Army qualifies the students through applications and then picks up the food bags.
The food in the bags is dictated by the supply at the food bank, so one week the bags may include such items as cereals, soups, vegetables and fruit.
''We prioritize our supply to handle children and the elderly,'' Flowers said. ''There are certain staple items canned foods, produce, nutrition bars and nutritional snacks that we always seem to have.''
''When the kids walk through the line and you see the joy in their eyes over having food, it's a very moving experience,'' said Josie McElroy, director of development of the food bank.
''This program is so popular and incredibly necessary that some school administrators have told us that the kids involved don't look forward to summer vacation because they won't be getting the subsidized meals and food bags because school is out of session.
''And this isn't just an urban problem. Feeding kids who are hungry is a problem that's everywhere. We're grateful to the Millennium Fund and the people who donate to it because that grant helps make the Backpacks for Kids a reality for kids who are hungry.''
Bill Lilley can be reached at 330-996-3811 or email@example.com.