Feed yourself to feed the hungry

By Colin Phan - Staff Reporter

A group of Highline students will be holding a bake sale to help fundraise for the Des Moines Food Bank Weekend Backpack Program on Dec. 4.

The fundraiser will be on the second floor of the Student Union in front of the Bookstore between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Most items are expected to be 50 cents each.

The Weekend Backpack Program was started in order to help families with kids who might be underfed. Des Moines Food Bank Executive Director Kris Van Gasken said that the program is a big help to kids in the area.

"The Backpack Program is where people are sending home food for kids at risk of hunger," Van Gasken said. "If you look at free and reduced lunch rates along Pacific Highway, they're astronomical."

The program first started at an elementary school in Des Moines, sending kids home with food over the weekend in backpacks.

"We started at Midway Elementary," Van Gasken said. "What we do is we send home two days [worth of] breakfast, lunch, dinner and some snacks."

Van Gasken said since starting at Midway, the program has spread its wings and now serves almost every elementary in their service area. Van Gasken said she also sees the number of backpacks they're giving out to increase.

"We're sending out about 300 backpacks a weekend," Van Gasken said. "We're anticipating about 400 by Christmas."

Des Moines Food Bank Associate Director Barb Shimizu said that there are 10-12 items in each backpack, filled with food that is on the healthier side.

"There's $10-12 worth of food in each backpack," Shimizu said. "There's things like instant mac, granola bars, and fruit snacks in them."

Schools identify children at risk of hunger, and report that number to the program, Van Gasken said. The program then tells the schools how many at risk children they can provide food for.

The program has had no problem so far with the amount of students they provide food to, Van Gasken said.

"All the kids that the schools have identified, we've been able to handle that," Van Gasken said.

Van Gasken said that the amount of food children receive correlates with their learning, and even their future income levels. She also said that along with food, reading has impact on levels of learning.

"When you're growing, the last thing that gets nutrition is your brain," Van Gasken said.

Students in the class doing the fundraiser said that they want to help their community, and give kids at risk of hunger a chance at a good education.

"[We want to] be selfless and give back to our community," said Julian Dean, a student in the class.

"[We want] to give everybody else a fair shot at a future, and stronger education," said Evie Tucker, another student.

Adam Samuel, a student in the class said that being well fed is important.

"If you don't eat, you can't focus. If you can't focus, you can't learn, and if you can't learn you'll always be poor," Samuel said.

All donations to the fundraiser will go directly to the Weekend Backpack Program.

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