BackPacks for Friday program expands to Sikeston's Southeast Elementary

Monday, October 4, 2010

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Nearly a year after implementing BackPacks for Fridays at Morehouse Elementary, students from another Sikeston school are now benefiting from the program.

SEMO Food Bank was able to support the expansion of the program to serve Southeast Elementary after receiving a $10,000 grant. It also received a $20,455 grant to support food acquisition for the entire program. The grant is being funded by Unilever U.S., one of the world's leading suppliers of consumer goods.

"We are thrilled to receive this funding and be able to expand this needed service to the hungry children in the Sikeston R-6 School District," said Southeast Missouri Food Bank executive director Karen Green. "We hope to one day have enough funding to provide all of the hungry children in our 16-county Southeast Missouri Food Bank service area through the BackPacks For Friday Program."

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. Food items consist of four menus rotating weekly and include nonperishable items such as peanut butter, crackers, soup, pasta and canned fruit.

This year 30 families are being served under the program at the Morehouse Elementary, and Southeast Elementary also has the potential to serve up to 30 families. Sept. 17 was the first Friday of the program for both schools for the new year.

Kathy Lake, human resources assistant for Sikeston schools and BackPacks for Friday district site coordinator, said the program's pilot year at Morehouse Elementary last year was a success.

"The volunteers were incredible," Lake said. "It was very beneficial. We received rave reviews from the parents, kids and everyone involved. I don't think you could have asked for a better first year of a program."

By last school year's end, 32 families were being served through the program.

"The kids felt special -- and not in a negative way. They felt like they were helping at home by being able to bring home some food," Lake said.

Teachers also saw a difference in their students who were receiving the backpacks.

"The children had better attitudes in general," Lake said.

Last school year, SEMO Food Bank also served Jefferson Elementary and Blanchard Elementary in the Cape Girardeau School District. The program has expanded to Orchard Elementary in Jackson this year.

Donations for the program may be sent to Southeast Missouri Food Bank, P.O. Box 1688, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702.

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