Kid packs have prevented hunger, but more donations being sought
A program the Sanpete Pantry instituted four years ago to prevent local kids from going hungry on weekends is still going strong, but continues to seek community donations.
Mary Gordon, former secretary of the Sanpete Pantry, launched the Sanpete County branch of KidsPack USA, a non-profit program designed to provide food to underprivileged children on weekends, in 2013 because she says she saw “a need” for children in the community.
“[Gordon] found out about the program somehow about three months before she [retired],” Susan Kearney, board member of the Sanpete Pantry said. “And because of the need, she wanted to do something to help our kids.”
The program initially began with the Sanpete Pantry staff reaching out to local elementary schools to inquire about whether staff and administrators had known of any children that might be going without proper meals and nutrition on the weekends.
Pantry staff would then fill a bag with meals, snacks and drinks for children to take home and eat on the weekends.
At first, the Sanpete Pantry had only delivered a few KidsPack’s to a couple of schools, which were sent home with the children on the last day of the school week.
Kearney said before Gordon retired she had asked the staff to promise to keep the program going to help our local kids get the nutrition they need, which would ultimately help to ensure kids’ success in school.
What began with nearly 300 packs delivered throughout the school year, has now reached over 400 packs a month.
However, feeding so many mouths in such a small community comes with challenges.
“It’s kind of expensive to run because you can only put certain things in it,” Kearney said. “But sometimes we like to do a special food if we can.”
Since March 2016 the KidsPack count has nearly doubled, rising from 240 packs to about 424 monthly.
In order to meet the demand, Kearney and her staff must purchase a lot of the food on a regular basis, although she says the community has shown tremendous support through their donations.
“We get support from everyone,” Kearney said. “It’s been amazing to see the churches and the relief society women help, and even Walmart and Terrels when they do their special food drives for [the cause].”
Kearney says there are some schools that have simply refused to accept any meals for any of their students.
Currently, 106 packs a week are delivered to five of the county’s eight elementary schools, with Manti Elementary being the newest school on the list.
Moroni, Spring City and Fountain Green Elementary schools have opted out of the charitable program. Kearney says some of the schools have simply said their students did not need the Kid Packs.
Sean Kearney, pantry staff member and a member of the Drive4Food committee, said, “You can’t tell if someone is hungry just by looking at them. They look a lot like you and me, and they need our help.”
It’s up to each of the school faculty and administrators to determine whether any of the children could benefit from these KidsPacks. Then, they report the information to the pantry.
Another way to help feed a hungry child is by contacting the Sanpete Pantry and informing them of a child they believe might need some help. Parents are also welcome to call the pantry and seek help for their own children.
For anyone who would like to donate to the special KidsPack cause, Kearney says the best items to donate are individual hot meals like ramen, Chef Boyardee meals, mac-and-cheese cups, etc. Other highly necessary items are oatmeal packs, individual size cold cereals, granola bars, pop tarts, fruit cups, fruit snacks, peanut butter, juice, crackers and other snacks.
These are some of the foods that will meet the KidsPack requirements and will help keep the bags under 6 pounds, light enough for the children to walk home with.
For more information, or to inquire about other ways to donate, please call Susan Kearney at the Sanpete Panty at 435-462-9021 or 435-660-9526.