The BackPack Program is designed to meet the needs of chronically hungry children, providing food on the weekends and over holiday breaks, when they are away from the school lunch and breakfast programs they depend on for nutrition. One in five Montana children struggle with hunger and Flathead County is higher than the state average where the child food insecurity rate is nearly 1 in 4 (23.6%). Thanks to a generous start-up grant of $25,000 from the Angora Ridge Foundation, and a tremendous need the BackPack Program was implemented in Whitefish and Columbia Falls in January of 2012 providing food for nearly 200 kids every weekend.
Each “BackPack Program” bag contains enough food for two days and arrives in easy to open, kid-friendly packaging. Bags are placed directly into the backpacks of children, in a discrete location, every Friday afternoon before they board the school bus for home. Each bag contains (2) nutritious cereal bowls, 8 oz. of shelf stable milk, (2) 100% juice boxes, (2) fruit cups, (1) treat/snack and (2) ready to eat entrees. Fresh fruit is added by the Montana Food Bank Network as available, at no additional cost to the program.
The program currently serves Glacier Gateway Elementary, Ruder Elementary, Columbia Falls Middle School, Columbia Falls High School, Muldown Elementary, and Whitefish Middle School, a School-Based Pantry at Whitefish High School, and Whitefish Independent High School in the future.
Montana Food Bank Network Chief Development Officer Bill Mathews explains, “The continued community support for the BackPack program in the Whitefish, Columbia Falls area is very important to meet the hunger needs of our children during the school year! Local businesses like The Wave and Glacier Bank are leading the way to End Hunger in Montana!”
The Wave and Montana Food Bank Network have partnered on a fundraising campaign kickoff this month to help the Backpack Program provide food for local hungry kids.
Here is how the community can help participate:
· Wave members can add $1 or more per month to their dues payment. Sign-ups can be done with any Membership Coordinator, Administrative Personnel or at the Service Desk.
· The public can make a one time donation at The Wave. Stop by 1250 Baker Ave or call our Service Desk 406-862-2444 for more information.
By providing adequate amounts of nutritious food for at-risk children in Whitefish and Columbia Falls, negative long-term impacts of hunger are alleviated. Site surveys of school coordinators and parents indicate improvements in their students and children’s health, school performance, and behavior. Kindness and generosity towards the most vulnerable, at-risk children in Whitefish and Columbia Falls, Montana is greatly appreciated. With this fundraising help, they are growing up healthier and better equipped to fulfill the hopes and dreams of childhood, and enabling them to become successful adults in our community. To learn more about the Montana Food Bank Network, go to www.mfbn.org.