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“Decorating bags kept my mind in a positive place.”

In every Sack Supper that Kids’ Food Basket distributes there are three things provided: brain food, healthy habits and a touch of love.

Brain food is the healthy and nutritious food that nourishes children to reach their full potential.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a good food diet is known to help improve overall academic achievement and allows children to have a better chance to thrive.

When a student has access to life-affirming meals every day, they establish healthy eating habits at a young age.

These habits carry into adulthood.

The last aspect of a Sack Supper focuses on the exterior.

Decorations on these paper bags represent a touch of love that has the power to brighten up a child’s day even before the benefits of eating the healthy food that is inside.

But while originally the purpose of a decorated bag is meant to have an impact on the bag recipient, the act of decorating itself also has the potential to impact the person holding the crayon or marker. 

The touch of love flows both ways.

Samantha was carrying the weight of dealing with a lot of change.

She became a new mom.

She was furloughed from her job of 14 years due to the pandemic.

And her husband’s teaching career was uncertain.

With all of the new adjustments, mixed with a general fear of COVID-19, Samantha’s anxiety and depression were at an all-time high.

She was not alone.

The CDC reported that 31% of U.S. adults experienced struggling with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the pandemic.

To combat the daily negativity that was clouding everyday life, Samantha turned to artistic outlets.

“I needed to do something,” she said.

She purchased blank canvases and began painting to occupy her mind.

One day while cleaning, she found a pile of plain brown paper bags in the closet.

She remembered Kids’ Food Basket.

Thinking about the children who received Sack Suppers, she redirected her artistic escape from painting canvases to drawing on bags.

“It kept my brain in a happy place, my mind in a positive place,” Samantha said. “I liked knowing that I was doing something that helps someone or that someone will enjoy seeing my artwork.”

Samantha began plugging away – spending her time drawing new images on the bags or browsing Pinterest looking for new inspirations.

Decorating bags became a peaceful routine.

“Which is what I needed,” she said. “I knew that if I got too into all the negative of the world, it wasn’t going to be good for me. I needed some way to distract my brain from all of that – that is why I started working on art pieces.”

Each bag decorated represented taking a healthy step to managing her overall mental wellness.

Her mind remained busy, while her hands created beautiful images.

All for the purpose of hoping that it would put a smile on the face of a child experiencing food insecurity.

“To me, it feels even more important to decorate the bags now that I have a daughter,” Samantha said. “If we were in the position that we needed to have someone help us to feed her, to have her feel better by seeing a picture on the bag would mean everything to me.”

Samantha donated hundreds of bags to Kids’ Food Basket.

Her wish is that everyone struggling with mental health during this crisis would seek out ways to ease their worries and anxieties.

Anyone can decorate a bag.

“You don’t need to be an artist to make kids happy – anyone can do it.”

Samantha still has not returned back to work.

Her anxiety still exists.

But her hope lies in knowing that her self-care is helping to make children happy.

“Until there is no stress in the world, which is never going to happen, I am going to keep doing bags.”

In honor of Brown Bag Decorating Day, Kids’ Food Basket is seeking to collect 100,000 bags by October 23. For more information on how to get involved and how to participate in bag decorating, check out: https://www.kidsfoodbasket.org/opportunities/brown-bag-decorating-day/