Are you making your list and checking it twice? Are you struggling with how to keep your children busy over their winter break? Maybe it is just having enough time to enjoy with family and friends? But what if your biggest worry this holiday season was not about checking items off your list, but how to feed your family for the week? Our community’s kids are hungry, and without proper nutrition, they are not able to succeed. Allison Struck, Feeding South Dakota’s BackPack Program Coordinator, states, “At the end of the day, ‘we’ just want to feed kids.”
As some children are counting down the days to their long break and dreaming of the gifts under their Christmas tree, remember that many are dreading the long break from school and the consistent daily meals that will be missed. This is a time to reflect on what we are thankful for and remember those that are struggling within our school, workplace, church, and community.
In 2016, over 10,000 families qualified for free and reduced school meals, and an average of 3,100 were served through the BackPack Program. Children right here in our community are struggling with issues they shouldn’t have to worry about at the age of 6 or 7. There are many children who are waiting for the lunch bell to ring to eat for the first time in up to 24 hours.
Many children struggle to make their BackPack Program food last through the weekend, let alone a holiday break. To prepare for more time away from school and cafeteria lunches, Feeding South Dakota ensures backpacks are filled with extra entrées and snacks that are all shelf stable in order to last. Items include white or chocolate milk, cereal, canned vegetables or fruit, mac and cheese, gold fish and beef jerky. Each week the items rotate to avoid repetitive menus and give kids the nutrition they may be missing.
When Feeding South Dakota started the BackPack Program in Sioux Falls in 2007, they were serving an average of 200 kids a week. Today, more than 3,100 children in Sioux Falls and 10 surrounding school districts within the Sioux Empire receive a BackPack every week.
This holiday season, as you check items off your list and enjoy time with family over a meal, remember those children whose only wish is food. Consider adding a gift to Sioux Empire United Way to your list for just $25 to ensure that 5 children across the Sioux Empire don’t wake up on Christmas morning with an empty stomach. To learn more visit www.seuw.org.