Jackson woman working to expand BackPacks for Friday program

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Southeast Missouri Food Bank's BackPacks for Friday program has been serving four schools in Cape Girardeau and Sikeston, Mo., for a few years, but with the help of a Jackson businesswoman, the program may soon be able to expand to Jackson.

The program provides a backpack filled with enough nonperishable food to feed a family of four for one weekend.

Insurance agent Janey Foust said she was surprised to learn that 41 percent of students at Orchard Elementary School in Jackson received free or reduced lunch. Then she said she was shocked to learn that during the weekend, some of these children would not eat regularly or at all.

"I don't think people are aware of it," she said. "The need exists. I don't want anyone to go hungry."

After talking to local organizations, she found out about the BackPacks program and the money it would take to include Orchard. She said the food bank told her it would take $9,800 to provide backpacks for 35 students for the school year. Foust solicited donations from Jackson businesses, churches, civic groups and individuals and has been able to raise almost $5,000 since the end of July. Once she has secured $8,000, she said, the food bank will start the program at Orchard. Foust said she would like to have that amount secured by Oct. 1.

Foust said the backpacks do not provide treats and junk food, but basic, necessary items.

"This is not candy," she said. "It is macaroni and cheese, green beans, tuna, things for meals."

In addition to securing enough money to start the program in Jackson, Foust said she will also organize food drives to benefit the BackPacks for Friday sometime in September to coincide with National Hunger Awareness Month.

Amanda Winschel, food bank program coordinator, said the individual schools identify the children most vulnerable to hunger.

The food bank then prepares a bag with nutritious meals and delivers them to the school. A site coordinator, usually a teacher or counselor, then puts the bag in a backpack and delivers it discreetly to the student.

Students return the backpacks Monday morning and they are used again for the remainder of the school year, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas break.

Backpacks are provided during the spring break.

"There are other opportunities during that time," Winschel said. "We do provide a resource guide to let families know where they can find food."

While Foust is the one taking the lead on securing the money for the program's expansion to Jackson, many people are playing a vital role.

"I am just the rallier," she said. "The whole community is sponsoring this school."

Foust is accepting monetary donations at her office at 130 S. High St. in Jackson.

More information about the program is available by calling the food bank at 651-0400 or Foust at 243-7600.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

Pertinent Address

130 S. High Street, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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