The Wildcat Weekend Foodpack Program in the Union School District is almost doubling in size this year, with a goal of providing meals to 125 children in need.
Due to the program’s growth, more space has become a top priority, said Dave Sutton, program chairperson.
Last year was the first year for the program and a total of 75 children in kindergarten through third grade received backpacks with six weekend meals and snacks.
“We can’t say enough kind things about St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Union for allowing us to use a classroom to store items and work,” Sutton said. “But now that we’re going to expand, we don’t know what we’re going to use as a facility.”
Sutton said the group is desperate to find a space inside the city of Union where food can be safely stored and packed for the program.
“If we had 500 square feet (of space), we would feel like we were in great shape,” said Sutton, adding the church has been helpful, open and welcoming, but also needs its own space.
With space restrictions now, the Wildcat Weekend Foodpack Program cannot store food in large quantities.
This year, the volunteer committee will expand the program to 125 children through fourth grade.
“The (expansion) concept is that the third graders have moved on to fourth grade, but they’re still hungry,” Sutton said. “It doesn’t seem right to say that now that they’re 8 they’re on their own.”
How It Works
Letters are sent to parents of eligible children confidentially through the school district. Even those packing the bags don’t know who will receive them.
“We don’t have the right to know who is getting food stamps or free meals from the state,” Sutton said. “We just want to help people in need.”
Each Friday, bags with meals inside are placed in the child’s backpack, either while all of the students are at recess or are out of the room.
Meals include items like a breakfast bar or an individual bowl of cereal for breakfast, a can of pasta with meat or soup. Students also get shelf milk, which doesn’t have to be refrigerated, juice boxes, fruit cups, pudding and other items.
All food is nonperishable so it can easily be stored and sent home in backpacks with the children.
The committee worked with a dietician to ensure children get a nutritious, balanced meal, Sutton said.
Committee members include Sutton, president; Bill Martindill, vice president; Dale Schmuke, treasurer; Cristine Metts, secretary; and Carol Metts, Bruce Templer, Jennifer hope, Carl Ridder, Roxanne Freise, Linda Maconochie, Ken Rohrbach, Ann Schroeder and Gary Young, all committee members.
The program began early last school year with a $5,000 donation from Zion United Church of Christ, Union.
The Union Kiwanis Club held a fundraiser early on and donated $1,200, which helped the program move forward.
The first weekend, meals were sent home with 18 children at Beaufort and Central elementary schools. By the end of the school year, a total of 75 children received the foodpacks.
Since the program’s inception, the committee has done several fundraising projects and started a pledge program.
“Our funding is mostly from pledges people make to us,” Sutton said. “People have been generous, supportive and understanding.”
Sutton said Sandy Crider with Loving Hearts Outreach in Washington helped get the program off the ground. Many civic organizations have contributed financially. Area grocery stores also have helped the group order in bulk and give any price breaks possible, Sutton said.
“There are an awful lot of people in the community who deserve a pat on the back,” Sutton said. “They’re just good people and helping out as they see the need.”
The total cost per week is approximately $625, or $2,500 per month.
The total projected cost this year is $18,000, according to Martindill, adding that he would like to raise $25,000 to help next year start on the right food.
“We are going on the belief that this is the right thing to do and that we’ll somehow get enough money to do it,” Sutton said. “There are many people doing a lot of work.”
People can make a monthly or yearly pledge.
The program costs approximately $5.20 per student per weekend. The school does not operate with tax funds or receive any supplements from the school district.
The Union R-XI Foundation is the foodpack program’s parent organization. People may make tax deductible donations through the foundation.
Those who would like to make a donation may mail a check to the Union R-XI Foundation, Wildcat Foodpack Program, P.O. Box 143, Union, MO 63084. For more information, people may call Martindill, 636-584-3290.
A donation form also can be found with the story online, at emissourian.com.