Marcia Herzfeldt, executive assistant of Sara Lee’s New London office, recently presented Project Backpack of Waupaca a check for $5,100. T
hat money will be used to provide nutritious food and snacks to children in need at the Waupaca Learning Center, the Waupaca Chain School, and the Waupaca Middle School.
This is how Project Backpack works: Participants in Project Backpack are identified by teachers, guidance counselors, and school social workers; then, their parents are invited by letter to take part in the program.
Each Friday afternoon (or last day of the school week), participating school children receive a backpack filled with healthy food and snacks. On the first day of the school week the child returns the empty backpack to their school to be restocked with food for the following Friday. Backpacks may include the following items: cereal, breakfast bars, oatmeal, juice, tuna, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter crackers, soup, applesauce, fruit cups, ravioli, vegetables, milk, and other nutritious food.
Each backpack contains enough food to see the child through the weekend. For longer weekends, additional items are added to the backpacks.
Currently, Project Backpack is filling and distributing around 80 backpacks per week. The number varies from week to week, due to school absences, families moving out of the school district, new students being added, and some students removing themselves from the program as their economic situations at home improve.
Project Backpack is now investigating the possibility of implementing this program within Headstart. We have also invited participating families to give up their backpacks over the Christmas vacation to receive a larger donation of Christmas groceries. This gift would include the fixings for a nice Christmas meal along with enough staples to see the family through the week.
At the present time, Project Backpack is supported by Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church of Waupaca, Victory Church of Waupaca, First United Methodist Church of Waupaca, a host of area businesses, and a wide variety of people throughout the community, who volunteer their time, talents, and resources to make this program work. Ruby’s Pantry, located at 138 South Oborn Street in Waupaca, has also partnered with Project Backpack to graciously provide space within their facility to store the program’s food and pack the backpacks.
To become a part of Project Backpack, simply contact Pastor Dave at 715-281-3514. There are a number of different ways volunteers can become involved such as: packing backpacks, delivering filled backpacks to the schools, picking up empty backpacks at the schools, shopping for groceries, restocking shelves, and/or repackaging bulk food items into individual servings. Tax-deductible financial donations can be made by sending checks to: Project Backpack, 153 County Road QQ, Waupaca, WI 54981.