The Weekend Food Backpack Program was begun in the spring of 2009 when we became aware of schoolchildren who ate free lunches at school during the week, but went home to empty cupboards on the weekends. We started with 18 packs in Scottsbluff that year, and the following January added a pack program in Gering. By the time school was out in 2019 we were sending home over 220 packs a week in the two districts.
The backpack program is a collaborative effort of the Scottsbluff and Gering Schools and the Cooperative Ministry Council, a 501 (c)(3) charity, and all funds are raised and administered by the Council. 100 % of money donated to the program goes to buy food for the backpacks. Students are referred by counselors, teachers and office staff, and the only requirement we have is that the families qualify for the free lunch program.
Packs contain an assortment of food, with an eye to providing as much nutritious food as we can with our available funds – approximately 15 items at a cost of about $5.00 per pack. Every week packs contain a piece of fresh fruit, a chef boyardee meal, cereal, instant oatmeal, a box of juice, a cup of fruit or vegetable, applesauce, ramen noodles, mac and cheese, cheese crackers and a granola bar. Every other week we send a can of soup and a sleeve of Saltine crackers. Once a month we include a small jar of peanut butter and other foods are added as budget and donations provide.