A program designed to feed children in the Atlantic Community School District over the weekend, has received approval and is expected to begin next month.
ACSD Food Service Director DeeAnn Schriener with one of the Backpack meals for kids.
DeeAnn Schriener, Food Service and Wellness Coordinator for the School District said during Monday night’s School Board meeting, she was approached about the “Backpack Program” a couple of years ago, but at that time it was the consensus of the district’s principals that the need wasn’t there. That’s not the case now.
She said this year some students had approached her on a Monday morning and said they hadn’t eaten anything all weekend. Their stories moved her to pursue the Backpack Program a little further. Schriener said after much research and phone calls, the program started falling into place. One of the places she contacted was the Food Bank of the Heartland, in Omaha, which has the program. After a conversation, she was moved to the top of their priority list, because Cass County is in what’s called a “Red Zone,” which means it is an “underserved community.” Officials with FBH met with the district’s principals after the Christmas break, and things have been taking off from there.
Schriener said her goal was to start with 15 Backpacks of food, but the count is currently at 144, which will be provided by Food Bank of the Heartland. She says the food is free to the district and to the kids. Each backpack is a bag which contains 2 breakfast cereals, 2 main dish items, 2 shelf stable milks, 1 juice box and 1 fruit bowl. The main goal of the program she says, is to make sure kids have food in their stomach, which it is hoped will increase their test scores back up and improve their concentration.
Schriener says if she can raise enough money, the Wellness Team will supplement the FBH backpack with 2 main dish items, 1 or 2 juice boxes and 2 snacks. That will cost about two to four-dollars per pack. She says there is a lot of community support behind the project. That includes help from the Atlantic Food Pantry, and Hy-Vee Manager Amy Jordahl, who will work to create and organize a media campaign to explain how the program works. Hy-Vee will also post signs throughout their store that indicate which items are “Friday Friendly.”
When customers purchase those items, they can give them to the cashier who makes sure the school receives those products. The food packs from FBH are expected to arrive next week, with distribution beginning Feb. 1st. Students are referred to the program by District staff and selected by the principals of each building and Schriener. Students DO NOT need to be on the Free and Reduced meal program. Once those students most in need are identified, the food backpack will be placed in the students’ locker and a waiver form will be sent home with their parent, which will give them the option of permitting their student receive future backpacks, or decline the offer.