The Great Plains Food Bank is expanding the Cass Clay BackPack Program to 750 children living with or at immediate risk of hunger in the community. This is an increase of 41 percent over last year when 530 students were served.
The program will reach students at all three of Moorhead’s elementary schools this year. Good Shepherd Church sponsored 100 students last year and will continue this year. Trinity Lutheran Church donated $5,000 for the 2011-12 school year, and MidContinent Communications donated enough money to start the program at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School this year.
During the 2010-11 school year, 7,063 children in the Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo school districts qualified for and relied on the free and reduced-price lunch program to meet their nutritional needs. The BackPack Program is designed to meet the needs of hungry children who might not get needed nutrition on the weekends.
“Hungry children don’t learn as well at school, which in turn limits their potential and productivity as adults. We believe that when a child is fed, they are equipped to learn, grow and dream of a future filled with opportunity. This program makes sense,” said Melissa Sobolik, director of member and client services for Great Plains Food Bank.
Students are recommended for the program by teachers or principals who see first-hand their nutritional needs. Food packages are filled with child-friendly, nonperishable food and then discretely given to children in the program just before the weekend or a school holiday.
Last year at Robert Asp, 85 packs were handed out every week.
“The program is changing lives,” said Nadine Moon, the Title I parent coordinator and supporter of the BackPack Program for Moorhead’s elementary schools. “For some children participating in the program, this food is the difference between eating or not.”
The Great Plains Food Bank, a program of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, secures and stores food for the program, coordinates community volunteers to fill the food packages, and delivers the packages to the schools. In Moorhead, the Moorhead High Key Club members assist in distributing the packs to student lockers. Last year, Key Club members donated more than 310 hours distributing the packs at Robert Asp and Ellen Hopkins Elementary Schools.
It costs $4.25 to fill a backpack with juice, milk, fruit and food for four meals and snacks. Sponsoring a child for the entire school year costs $162, the Great Plains Food Bank said. Donations to the program may be designated to a particular school.
Ellen Hopkins Elementary, Robert Asp Elementary and S.G. Reinertsen Elementary are three of the 14 schools participating in the Cass Clay BackPack Program this year.