SIKESTON -- In the two years the BackPacks For Friday program has been implemented in Sikeston elementary schools, Kathy Lake said it's offered so much more than food in a backpack for local children.
"It goes so much further than that," said Lake, who serves as the BackPacks For Fridays site coordinator for the Sikeston R-6 district. "Through BackPacks For Friday, the school is able to reach families. That's the important thing. We want families to feel comfortable coming into the schools and feel part of the process. And through this program, we're able to make that happen."
Nearly 75 percent of children in Sikeston elementary schools qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. Eligible students receive free meals at school, but weekends are another matter and that's where the Southeast Missouri Food Bank's BackPacks For Friday program comes in.
"We partner with elementary schools and community organizations to send backpacks full of nutritious food home with the poorest students. The children and their families get the benefit of a steady supply of nutritious food during the entire school year," said Amanda Winschel, children's program manager at the Food Bank.
Southeast Missouri Food Bank is working with the community to raise funds that will feed hungry children on weekends during the school year.
"A gift of $280 will allow us to feed one student and their family for an entire school year, a gift of $8,400 would serve the needs of one elementary school," Winschel said.
Southeast Missouri Food Bank's child feeding program provides elementary students who are at risk of hunger with a backpack filled with about 10 pounds of nutritious food each Friday.
Volunteers are also needed to sort the food and fill backpacks each week for the students to take home. Church groups, business groups, home-schooled children, retired teachers and individuals are among those who volunteer.
"It's something we can do right here in Sikeston to make sure children have what they need to get a good education, and part of that is to make sure they're not hungry when they go to school," said Diane Eberhard, BackPacks For Friday volunteer coordinator.
For the entire story, see the July 13 edition of the Standard Democrat or click here to log on to the electronic edition.