Sioux Falls, SD (October 30, 2017) - For one in six kids in South Dakota, ghosts are not the scariest part of Halloween, hunger is.
Research shows that when kids have full tummies, they can learn in school, be more creative, and grow to their full potential. Going hungry does not just affect a child's physical health; students in food insecure homes also have a harder time interacting with their peers, paying attention, and performing academically.
Hunger makes childhood impossible.
This is why Feeding South Dakota has several programs focused on ending childhood hunger.
Children at risk of hunger are provided free or reduced meals through the National School Lunch Program. While this program effectively combats hunger during the school day, it does not address the needs of children when school is not in session. Feeding South Dakota’s BackPack Program is designed to fill this gap by providing at-risk children with nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods during weekends and holidays. When asked through a survey, “in the last month, did you ever worry that the food in your house would run out before you were able to buy more,” 67 percent of children enrolled in the BackPack Program said often or sometimes. This program is filling a significant gap for 3,000 children in the Sioux Empire who experience food insecurity.
“The meals and snacks provided in the BackPack Program does more than satisfy immediate hunger pains; research shows that when children have consistent access to food on the weekend, they are more likely to come to school focused and ready to learn,” said Allison Struck, BackPack Program Coordinator.
Although the BackPack Program fills a need, there are gaps in service. Currently, 47 percent of the BackPack Program participants share the items with at least one other family member. In addition, the number of participants drops steeply from elementary to middle school and again from middle to high school. This is due in part to the stigma that occurs as these children get older.
In addition to the BackPack Program, Feeding South Dakota operates two School Food Pantries. The largest one is in Yankton, and the program averages about 96 families per distribution. The second one is housed at Axtell Park in Sioux Falls, and they average about 40 families per week. School Pantry Programs help to alleviate child hunger by providing food to children and their families at school. These innovative hunger relief programs make it possible to provide perishable foods like meat, dairy, bread, and produce that the BackPack Program is unable to distribute.
In the fall of 2015, Feeding South Dakota started an after school snack program at Oak View Library. This program, named “Food for All,” provides one snack and one beverage to children who go to the library for activities after they are done with classes. Many of the Food for All participants attend Anne Sullivan, a Title I elementary school across the street from Oak View. Since this pilot program began, the library has been experiencing a significant increase in the number of children visiting its site. The program began serving approximately 40 children, and today serves more than 100 children each day. Children who go to the library receive a snack, and many of the children stay to participate in educational programs.
“The library staff members offer educational programming, so if the kids enjoy a snack and then stay to participate in the activities, everyone benefits,” said Allison Struck.
Feeding South Dakota needs your help.
These childhood hunger programs do not come without a cost. Currently, $600,000 is budgeted to provide food assistance to the children who participate in the BackPack Program, the School Food Pantry Programs and Food for All at Oak View Library. Through our partnership with the Sioux Empire United Way, Feeding South Dakota received $230,000 to help cover nearly 40 percent of the BackPack Program’s annual budget alone. This significant contribution bolsters the BackPack Program, but a funding gap remains.
Today, Feeding South Dakota launches a campaign throughout the next 30 days to secure sponsorships for hundreds of children who participate in the BackPack Program. Each BackPack sponsorship costs $150 and that ensures that one child has access to nutritious food for an entire school year.
Dealing with food insecurity is scary at any age. For children, not knowing if you will get enough to eat on a day to day basis is a nightmare. However, Feeding South Dakota knows that there is a solution. With help from community members, we can ensure that no child goes hungry in our state.
Contact Allison Struck, BackPack Program Coordinator, at 605.335.0364 ext. 156 for photos and video opportunities of the BackPack Program on Monday, October 30th from 4-5 p.m. Volunteers will be packing BackPacks during that time frame. For an interview with a principal, teacher, counselor or student at Terry Redlin Elementary, please contact DeeAnn Konrad (Sioux Falls School District Community Relations Supervisor) at 605.201-6325 or Ben Schumacher at 605.610.7560. Terry Redlin Elementary receives more than 200 weekly BackPacks for children.
About Feeding South Dakota
Feeding South Dakota, whose mission is to eliminate hunger in South Dakota, is the state’s largest charitable hunger relief organization. In FY16, Feeding South Dakota secured and distributed over 13.5 million pounds of quality nutritious donated and purchased food providing 11.25 million meals to more than 190,000 individuals in need. Feeding South Dakota is able to distribute this food from our distribution centers in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City through its network of over 350 charitable organizations across the state. These organizations then provide this food to individuals who are “food insecure” through youth programs, senior centers, on-site feeding programs, emergency food pantries, after school programs, and homeless shelters. For more information on Feeding South Dakota, please visit www.feedingsouthdakota.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
About BackPack Program
Feeding South Dakota provides BackPacks to 34 schools in the Sioux Falls School District. Feeding South Dakota also partners to provide BackPacks in the communities of Brandon, Tea, Harrisburg, Lennox, Tri-Valley, Hartford, Humboldt, Chester, Baltic and Dell Rapids.
Feeding South Dakota Contact
BackPack Program Coordinator
Feeding South Dakota
605-335-0364 ext. 156