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Local Life Profile: Stomping out hunger – one backpack at a time

Oct 13, 2017 10:40AM ● Published by Editor

Local Life Special Report by Lisa Bauer from Boreal Community Media - October 13, 2017

The Cook County Schools Wellness Committee met in 2013 and learned from the school nurse that some children were coming to school hungry after being home on weekends and holidays because they did not have access to food when school was not in session.  Diane Booth, a member of the committee, started a pilot food project during the summer with the Summer Youth Program.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and today a collaboration between Cook County Extension, Cook County Kids Plus, the Cook County Food Shelf and ISD#166 supports the Snacks and Packs Backpack program in schools wanting to participate.

The Snacks and Packs Backpack Program feeds Cook County area children in need on weekends and during the summer when school isn’t in session.  These children receive a nutritious supply of food at the end of the week to fill dietary gaps that occur when school is not in session.  The food is placed discretely in the participating child’s cubby or locker.  Additionally, twice a month each child receives a $10 voucher that can only be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores.

Approximately 40% of students enrolled in the Cook County School District are eligible to participate in the free or reduced school lunch program.  These same students are eligible to participate in the Snacks and Packs program throughout the year.  We are the only site in Minnesota that provides food to our enrolled students in the summer.  Other sources of food assistance in Cook County include Ruby’s Pantry (no income restrictions) and the local food shelf, where residents can get a 3 day emergency supply of food once a month.

Donations to the Snacks and Packs Backpack Program are accepted and greatly appreciated.  One hundred percent of the donations go directly to the kids.  If you are interested in supporting the program, please contact Diane Booth at 218-387-3015.  Thanks to the many partners below for helping to feed our children:  Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, Cook County Schools & Wellness Committee, North Shore Federal Credit Union, Cook County Extension, Cook County Food Shelf, Cook County Kids Plus, Lioness’ Club, Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Employees, Empty Bowls, West End Garden Club, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Women, Lions Club and numerous other private donations.

Lisa Bauer is the Executive Director of Boreal Community Media.  A new resident of Cook County, Lisa also works for Cook County ISD 166.  A lifelong volunteer, Lisa plans to profile those people and organizations who help others across the Arrowhead region in the months ahead.

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