By Libby Rosequist
The North East School District has teamed up with the Second Harvest Food Bank to allow students in need to participate in the BackPack program.
The BackPack program was created by the food bank to help provide meals to children struggling with food insecurity during the weekends and holidays.
Superintendent Dr. Michele Hartzell approved the program and students can expect to receive help starting Friday, Oct. 9.
“We all know the pandemic has affected the lives of the North East community,” Dr. Jennifer Ritter, principal of Earle C. Davis Primary School, said. “It has been such a challenging time for everyone, from losing jobs, sickness, death and finding a new normal in this chaos. But what was brought to our attention at school was the food insecurity some of our students were facing due to COVID-19. Research shows that when people struggle economically, the most affected are the children.”
Food insecurity is common and happens when a family is unable to provide enough food for everyone in that household.
The North East School District already offers programs in-house to combat this including, free or reduced breakfast and lunches during the school year. With COVID-19 still prevalent in day to day life, NESD knew it needed extra resources to provide for the students during the weekends and extended holiday breaks.
“We took a look at the students already enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program and then mailed a letter to each of the families inviting them into the BackPack program,” Ritter said. “We were elated to see we had 40 responses, 20 between the Davis and Intermediate sides of the school.”
Each student in the program will be discreetly given a bag of food under three pounds that will fit inside their bookbags and can be carried home comfortably if they walk.
“We want to see every one of our students succeed inside and outside of school,” Brian Emick, Intermediate School principal, said. “As a district, we are so thankful we can collaborate with the community to provide additional resources for the children in need.”
Along with the food bank, the school has also reached out to Corey Hansen who is a co-coordinator for Move the Mountain and a troop leader for Boy Scout Troop 57.
“I have been involved with Move the Mountain for about eight years and food insecurity has been one of my biggest focuses for helping the community,” Hansen said. “I am also getting Troop 57 involved so they can earn their service hours and understand the importance of helping those in need.”
The Boy Scouts under Hansen’s supervision will be picking up the donated food and storing the items at Park United Methodist Church where they will package each bag and then drop off the food at the school to then be dispersed accordingly.
“We are starting small with simple food and smaller numbers but we are hoping by doing this we will find a system that works efficiently for everyone involved and then we can build on our success,” Ritter said. “Hansen has a big heart for those in need of food and he has been monumental in getting this program to our school.”
The meals include cereal, fruits, bread and a protein that does not need to be refrigerated, for
example, nuts or peanut butter. The organization is careful to make sure children’s allergies are taken into consideration as well as the children’s religious beliefs.
For more information or questions on the program, contact the Davis school office at 814-725-8676.