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Helping low-income students ... one bag at a time

Boy Scouts Kaleb Wright (left), Zachariah Carroll and Nick Bruch fill bags full of food and school supplies for the Backpack Ministries program. The packages go to low-income students to help their families make ends. Clients of the program are kept confidential and all of the work is done by volunteers.
Boy Scouts Kaleb Wright (left), Zachariah Carroll and Nick Bruch fill bags full of food and school supplies for the Backpack Ministries program. The packages go to low-income students to help their families make ends. Clients of the program are kept confidential and all of the work is done by volunteers.

HENNEPIN — The free and reduced school lunch program ensures students from low income families can receive nutritious meals each day at school. But what happens to those students during the weekend?

Putnam County Backpack Ministries is a volunteer organization now in its sixth year in Putnam County, which provides weekend packed lunches for school-age students that are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

When the program started, it provided 23 meals. Presently, the ministry packs and delivers 77 lunches per week. Each Friday, lunches are distributed by the staff at the Putnam County Primary, Elementary and Junior High schools. The confidentiality of the students is maintained by the school system.

The Backpack Ministries was started locally under the guidance of Pastor Carol Stufflebeam with the help of several area churches. The program is assisted with food from the Midwest Food Bank and local food and monetary donations. The program is run entirely by volunteers. Without the donations of time, food and money, many area children would go without weekend meals due to lack of food in their homes.

The ministries program is contemplating continuing the program during the summer, but much of the question hinges on funding and logistics. The program was offered last year, but was unsuccessful in reaching the families throughout the summer.

Volunteers are always needed to help shop, pack and distribute food and food and monetary donations are always appreciated.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Gloria Bouxsein at 815-925-7195 or Janee Leatherman at 815-878-0001.

Foods needed to make meals for Backpack Ministries include:

• Cans of soup.

• Microwavable cups of soup.

• Small cans of tuna or chicken.

• Cans of pasta like Ravioli or SpaghettiOs.

• Cups of applesauce, pudding, fruit or gelatin.

• Small boxes of raisins.

• Poptarts or breakfast bars.

• Instant oatmeal.

• Small individual boxes of cereal.

• Plastic jars of peanut butter or jelly.

• Crackers with cheese.

• Crackers with peanut butter.
 

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