Backpack Program

About 40 kids in the Milford area utilize the Kiwanis Backpack Program in order to be able to eat each weekend during the school year.

According to the Food Bank of Lincoln, more than 11 percent of people in Seward County are food insecure, which means they don’t know where their next meal will come from.

To help raise money to keep the Backpack Program going, the Milford Kiwanis Club will host a benefit concert on June 29, featuring the local B Street Band.

In Milford, the Kiwanis Club packed an average of 39 backpacks each week during the school year, and it’s currently averaging 12 bags during the summer months.

“The school goes off the free and reduced lunch program. We just get a number of bags that we need to pack,” said Milford Kiwanis member Katie Wergin. “We pack the bags and deliver them to the school.”

The bags contain foods from the Food Bank of Lincoln, and sometimes vouchers for produce, milk and other items.

School staff distributes the food to the kids, keeping their names as confidential as possible.

In Seward, the noon Kiwanis Club operates a Backpack Program during the school year, and the Helping Hands Kiwanis Club takes care of the program during the summer.

This year, the Helping Hands are serving 15 kids. Ron Petsch, who is a member of Helping Hands and the Milford Kiwanis Club, said the summer numbers in Seward have ranged from 8 to 23 over the five summers it has operated.

In addition to Seward, Helping Hands serves kids in Staplehurst, Beaver Crossing, Ulysses and other communities as needed.

“The thing that’s different about the summer program is we actually deliver,” Petsch said. “We started working out of the Food Net in Seward, but only about half picked (the bags) up, so now we deliver it to their house.”

Helping Hands has 26 members and delivers on three routes throughout the summer.

“(Some kids) practically tackled you in the driveway when we got there,” Petsch said. “They were very thankful.”

Each Kiwanis club holds fundraisers to help pay for the food.

“It costs over $6 per week per student,” Petsch said. “We’re a smaller club, but we have some fundraisers. Typically, we’re involved with the Seward Showcase basketball tournament. That’s our largest source of funds.”

Petsch said the Seward noon Kiwanis Club and the Milford Kiwanis Club have each received grant money from Monsanto to help pay for food.

He said Milford was the first community outside of Lincoln to start a backpack program. The idea came about when he was lieutenant governor for the Kiwanis district from 2005 to 2006.

“I had 12 clubs. My suggestion was ‘what can we do as a division for a single project,’” he said. “What made it attractive was that Beatrice and Fairbury and Hickman were in the county area that the Lincoln Food Bank serves,” he said, so their clubs could be a part of the project, too.

Wergin said the Milford program began in 2007. It has been helping feed families for the last 12 years.

The June 29 concert will benefit the Milford Backpack Program. It will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at Levrack, located at 2804 O Street Road, 1/2 mile south and 1/4 mile west of the Seward exit from Interstate 80.

Wergin said the concert has become a great fundraiser for the program, raising $4,000 last year when it was hosted by Tom Troyer.

“I think the year before that, Craig Shaw had it at his house,” she said. “It’s a great way to get the community to come together, listen to the B Street Band and give to a great program and need that we have in our community.”

There is no admission fee for the concert, but a freewill donation will be accepted for the Backpack Program. Homerun BBQ will have food available for purchase.

Bring lawn chairs. The event will be moved inside if the weather is bad.

Snacks and beverages will be provided, but attendees may bring their own beverages, as well (alcoholic or nonalcoholic).

“I think it’s something people will readily support,” Petsch said. “Hunger and food insecurity across the Kiwanis world is a huge focus. There’s a lot of programs, not just here but all across the area.”

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