For the last two years, children in Friend who qualify have been served by the Feeding America BackPack Program. The Food Bank in Lincoln recently dropped off one of their six-week supplies of food for those enrolled in the program.
“We currently have 18 children enrolled in the program,” The Rev. Jerry Gill, pastor at the Friend Christian Assembly Church, said.
The Friend Christian Assembly Church has been the drop off site for the BackPack Program the last two years and the success of the program can be credited to dedicated volunteers.
“There are a number of local community, school and church members that help sort the food into totes that go to the school for the children to take home,” Gill said. “There is also a lot of funding that comes from the community. Local community members help support these children so they do not have to go without.”
The BackPack Program is currently serving 3,500 children and their families every week in southeastern Nebraska, according to Alex Shada, public relations director for the Food Bank.
“Most of the 3,500 come from the Lincoln area, but the rest are from rural schools. Each week, the children enrolled in the program are sent home with four or five meals to provide them with enough food for the weekend so when they come to school on Monday they are not hungry and are eager to learn,” Shada said. “It is our goal that these children are not going without food. We are not reaching all of those kids, however we are getting to a good number of them. It will never be enough until we are serving everyone.”
Some of the food items that are sent home for those enrolled week to week through this program are cereal, pancake mix, macaroni and cheese, canned fruits and vegetables and soup, among other items.
Children who qualify for the free and reduced school lunch program are eligible to participate in the BackPack Program. It is then their choice of whether or not they wish to participate.
“The school lunch program is extremely confidential, and we do not in any way publicize which children are participating,” Michele Johnson-Clouse, Friend Public Schools business manager, said.
For more than 15 years, the Feeding America BackPack Program has been helping children get the nutritious and easy-to-prepare food they need over the course of the weekend. Today, bags of food assembled at more than 150 local Food Banks are distributed at the end of the week to nearly 230,000 children every year, according to the Feeding America website.