United Way of Story County INCOME: BackPack Program ™

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

—by Sara Wilson, UWSC Marketing Director

Throughout the United Way of Story County (UWSC) LIVE UNITED campaign, this column is highlighting different programs in the community impact areas of education, income and health to give readers an idea of the work being done locally.

In the area of income, UWSC partners with the Food Bank of Iowa to bring Feeding America’s BackPack Program™ to six elementary schools in Story County. The BackPack Program™ is designed to lessen the consequence of chronic childhood hunger by providing a sack of kid-friendly foods to low-income elementary school children on weekends when they don’t have access to the federal free and reduced-price meal program. There is no cost for children, their families or schools to participate in the BackPack Program™.

The contents of the backpacks vary each week but contain a variety of items such as pop-top meals or soup, 100% juice, single-serve cereal, fruit cups, peanut butter, shelf-stable 2% milk, pudding cups and snacks. The backpacks are discreet and contain enough food for only the child participating.

UWSC learned about the program in 2011 and has determined partnering with the Food Bank of Iowa is the most efficient way to provide food to elementary-age students over the weekends. Deciding it was an important program, UWSC identified financial resources to help cover the costs. More than 100 students are served each week at schools in Ames (Edwards, Kate Mitchell and Meeker), Ballard and Nevada. Sawyer Elementary in Ames will begin serving 25 students in January.

In addition to UWSC, all of the involved schools have support from other community partners as well. At Ballard, the Ministerial Association helps identify students with needs, and high school students, led by a student program coordinator, pack the bags; Edwards partners with St. Andrews Lutheran Church; Kate Mitchell has recently partnered with ReNew Community Church; Charities Sorority supports Meeker; The Salvation Army is the current storage site for Meeker until ACPC’s new facility is ready to be the site for storing and packing, and Janet and John Kazwell purchased and donated the storage cabinet; Nevada community member Becky Vermillion coordinates the program at Nevada Central with a group of volunteers; Sawyer is partnering with Lord of Life Lutheran Church (Lutheran Campus Ministry). Community partners place the order, pick up and store the food, and pack the bags. Filled bags are then given to the school for school personnel to distribute to the appropriate children.

Community partners are such a big part of the process, and the efforts are definitely making an impact in the classrooms. Educators are reporting a difference in the students who participate; they come back to school on Monday ready to learn rather than hungry.

UWSC is committed to sustaining and expanding the BackPack Program™ and will continue to work with the Food Bank of Iowa to make sure Story County children in need are served. Community members can support the program with a donation to the UWSC LIVE UNITED campaign.

United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support, and evaluates effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.