"Backpacks for Friday" sends kids home with food for weekend - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

"Backpacks for Friday" sends kids home with food for weekend

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By Crystal Britt - bio | email

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A new feeding program launches in Cape Girardeau.

Kids in need during the school year can take advantage of free and reduced lunches, but what happens on the weekends...are they going to bed hungry?  Heartland News is told many are.

Now there's a new program to help not only those kids, but their family's too.

Jefferson Elementary in Cape Girardeau is the pilot site for "Backpacks for Friday."

It's a first at the school, and a first in southeast Missouri.  The hope is the endeavor doesn't stop there. 

It's all smiles as a group of women fills plastic bags with food with things like cereal, veggies and fruit and even toothpaste.

The goodies then make their way into black backpacks.

For starters, 36 children at Jefferson Elementary will go home every Friday during the school year with a backpack.  It's geared to help feed them, and the rest of their family during the weekend.

"I think there's the possibility that will be added onto because there are more families that could use it," said Mark Cook, Jefferson Elementary principal. 

With help from the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, The United Way and a local group called Graces Women's Council, the program is launched.

"We know that school performance is directly linked to nutrition so this is a great way to take the food directly to the child and let them carry it home," said Karen Green, Executive Director of the Southeast Missouri Food Bank. 

"We provide 10 pounds of food for each of the children through the food bank and we can do this for $230 per child," said Becky Kies, chairperson of Graces Women's Council.

She says that $230 is child per year.  It's something volunteers say is doable, and definitely needed.

"Of course we're hearing from all the agencies that we fund that provide basic needs about how many people are coming to them right now for the first time," said Nancy Jernigan, executive director of the United Way of Southeast Missouri. 

Principal Mark Cook says the child's parents will come pick the backpacks up during school hours for now.

"We're excited because it's the first time anything like this has happened and a lot of times the families need to know the support is there," said Cook. 

The hope is to see this program grow. 

"The food bank serves 16 counties from Ste. Genevieve to Arkansas," said Green. "We'd love to see the program expand so we can offer to all the school districts because there's a lot of hunger in southeast Missouri."

According to the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, 10 schools are already on the waiting list to get this program going.

It could be coming to Sikeston as early as next month.  

Volunteers and donations are needed to keep and get these programs going.

Contact the Southeast Missouri Food Bank at (573) 651-0400 for details on how you can help.

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