Hettinger BackPack program helps kids

 

Their motto: No Child Should Ever Go Hungry.

Strong words; but it’s a harsh reality that kids sometimes don’t know when they are getting their next meal. Even children of the Hettinger community.

File Photo
File Photo

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Their motto: No Child Should Ever Go Hungry.

Strong words; but it’s a harsh reality that kids sometimes don’t know when they are getting their next meal. Even children of the Hettinger community.

The Hettinger BackPack program hopes to change that.

“There’s kids in our community that are going hungry,” said Joy Laufer. “And we just couldn’t fathom that so we wanted to something about it, so that’s how it got started.”

Laufer is one of three volunteers who operate the program.

In January 2014, Kathy Jahner, who works at the food pantry in Hettinger, heard about the BackPack program through the Great Plains Food Bank. The program aims to supplement food to kids who may go short over the weekends.

The program is an official part of Feeding America. It is then filtered through the Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo to the individual communities, like Hettinger.

For the 2013-2014 school year 20 communities around the state participated in the program.

Following initial discussions among the group—which includes Jahner, Laufer and Christi Schmitz—they approached the school. Through those conversations it was determined that this would be a good program for Hettinger Public School.

Letters were sent out to the entire student body with information on the program, then parents could either sign their child up, or decline inclusion.

Laufer said they had nearly 40 kids register, a number she said was fairly large considering the size of the community.

Unlike may other social programs, the BackPack program requires very little to join. There are no questions, no stacks of paper work or hardship qualifications. And everything is confidential.

The group first distributed food in February of this past school year. They plan on starting earlier, since the group has been in practice long enough, they will start in September.

“The feedback has been exceptional, it’s working,” Laufer said.

The food is sent to the food pantry in Hettinger. From there the items are placed in individual bags—not backpacks like the name of the program might infer.

Included in the bags are items that kids can manage themselves like pudding, granola bars, mac and cheese and soup. Items that don’t require the child to operate any appliances other than a microwave.

After the food is placed in the individual bags, one of the volunteers brings them to the school and places them in a designated spot. Then the school-appointed representative, who is anonymous, picks up the bags and distributes them to the kids signed up for the program.

The cost of each bag is $5, but that cost is not charged to the kids or families, it is all covered by donations.

“It’s all donated,” Laufer said. “This program relies on sponsors and donations, that is it, there is no cost to the families whatsoever.”

Currently the Hettinger BackPack program has formed a partnership with the Community Action of Dickinson and it operates under their non-profit tax ID, but Laufer said they hope that one day they can operate independently, and even acquire some space of their own.

“The food bank is being so generous here allowing us to have a corner of their building to do this,” Laufer said.

As of now the group has not held any fundraising events, and the group has been blessed with many donations from the community. Laufer said the response to donations and sponsorships letters was ‘tremendous.’

Anybody wishing to help with the efforts can contact Laufer, Jahner or Schmitz. Donations are welcomed at PO Box 161 and checks can be made out to The BackPack Program of Hettinger, or you can contact one of the three volunteers of the program.







GAMES