Support the backpack program

EDITOR:

It was approaching winter break, most children are fidgeting restlessly awaiting the ring of the final school bell. They are anticipating the games they will play, hanging out with friends, dreaming of gifts they hope to receive, and relishing two whole weeks of sleeping in.

Sitting despondently among the animated youths is a scrawny girl who is dreading the echo of that bell… Worry is etched on her delicate young features. For her, winter break means hunger. Thoughts of gifts and a Christmas tree are a fruitless fantasy. Instead, waking up and falling asleep to the sound of a growling belly preoccupy her thoughts. Recollections of Thanksgiving break still fresh in her mind, rummaging through empty cupboards and a stale smelling refrigerator trying to find something, anything to appease her hollow belly.

The bell rings and the young girl files into line with the other children in the Backpack program to receive the grocery sack of food that she believes will be the only rations provided her during the holiday break. When it is her turn, she begins to cry… She tells the teacher and volunteer that she is afraid she will not have enough food for break and most of the sacks contents will be consumed by others in the household long before school reopens.

A second grocery sack is sent with the child along with instructions to hide the bag and its contents when she gets home. The girl’s face brightens and her small frame sags with the additional weight of foodstuffs as she scuttles out the door to catch the bus home.

“This is why we do this…..” Larry Kirschner, food distribution coordinator of the Gladstone-Rapid River Kiwanis tells me. “We do it for the kids.”

I’m standing in room 186 at the Gladstone High School watching volunteers assembling “backpacks”. The backpacks are actually plastic grocery bags filled with mostly nonperishable foodstuffs purchased from Feeding America and primarily funded by the Community Foundation of Delta County. A piece of fresh fruit and container of shelf stable milk is provided thanks to donations.

The offerings are selected based on cost, weight, and ease of preparation. The bags are assembled each week on Wednesdays at three o’clock and once assembled are loaded into volunteer’s vehicles and distributed to the Gladstone and Rapid River Area Schools (K-12) so that children at risk of hunger will have meals over the weekend.

I hope I have inspired you the reader and implore you to consider this worthy cause by donating your time or sending a monetary donation to help put food in hungry children’s bellies.

For information about the Backpack Program and how you may get involved, contact Gladstone-Rapid River Kiwanis Club President Alan Stotz at P.O. Box 22, Gladstone MI or to make a monetary donation, send checks payable to the Community Foundation for Delta County, 2420 1st Avenue South, Suite 101 Escanaba, MI 49829 and allocate the funds for the Backpack Program in the for section on the check.

Nicole Garrison

Rapid River