So much of our culture and life experiences are surrounded by food, sharing meals and celebrating special occasions often with food. Who doesn’t remember their school lunch program? Hot lunch, Cook’s Choice, cheesy bread – the list goes on and on!
While school lunch programs – first nationalized in 1946 – were originally created to help struggling farmers with food surpluses, today they have become the main vehicle for ensuring students who live in poverty are able to eat nutritious meals.
Over the years, Pine River-Backus Schools have been proactive in meeting the needs of our children and providing meals for students. School-wide free breakfast was started several years ago; and many students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Two years ago, we began a summer meal plan that provides breakfast and lunch to all children several weeks each summer – typically summer school and when our extracurricular activities get started in late summer.
Unfortunately, we still have hungry families and children in Cass County. As a matter of fact, according to David Dayhoff, director of Hunger Free Minnesota, in 2010 there were 686,000 missed meals in Cass County with 205,400 of those being in the Pine River-Backus School District and surrounding communities. Cass County has an unusually high number of residents – not just students – who suffer from a meal deficit. That means they are not eating three meals a day.
Here at school, we’ve begun to look more deeply into this issue and know we have the capacity to provide a dinner meal. Of course, making a meal and having students on site to eat are two different issues. So, we thought we would start by offering an after school snack program.
According to The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) – federally-funded reimbursements for after school meals served to eligible children – providing meals or snacks to children who participate in an after-school program has a two-fold impact. First, the snacks/ meals curb hunger and provide nutrition. Second, participation in extracurricular programs enhances student achievement and school success. Providing a meal with the after school program is a great way to draw more students!
After school snacks are now available to Pine River-Backus students. Counts are based on students involved in after school activities from PowerLearners to varsity sports, and including Community Education.
It will be a light snack including items like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese and deli meats. Milk or juice will also be part of the snack.
I am thankful to those who have been a part of making this opportunity a reality. Most would agree that no child should go hungry in our country. A mark of our national greatness is our willingness to take care of those in need – also a mark of our PR-B community which has always stepped up when called.
And, so I thank you. Proud to be PR-B!