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Backpack Program Forced To Scale Back

October 6, 2011, 5:10 PM by Hailey Higgins

Backpack Program Forced To Scale Back
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The demand for Feeding South Dakota's Backpack Program is growing.

But for the first time ever, the program that makes sure students have something to eat over the weekend is scaling back.

In just four years, demand for the backpack program surged from just 200 students to 3,400. But this fall, high food prices and low donations are forcing the program to pick and choose who gets food and who goes without.

Allison Struck's job is getting a lot harder as the Backpack Program Coordinator for Feeding South Dakota. This year she's had to drastically cut back on the number of backpacks.

"Funding has been a challenge for us this year. We don't know if it is because of the stock market, the economy or other factors that are out of our control, but we're also seeing our food prices go up," Struck said.

The cost of apples alone jumped $600 a week.

Traci Jensen with the Sioux Falls School District says demand is also rising.

"It is just a little bit frustrating, too," Jensen said. "At times, we're not able to meet the demands or the needs of all of our students, but we know that is just the reality of the situation."

The Sioux Falls School District says it is receiving about 500 fewer backpacks per week than last year. Many families lucky enough to get a backpack must share the food between several siblings.

"We'd like for every family to get one backpack. But at least they are getting some form of supplement," Jensen said. "But we have waiting lists at most of our schools that are waiting to get on the backpack program."

Right now, 200 students in Sioux Falls are on the list, hoping that they'll soon receive their own sack of food.

"We are doing the best we can right now to hopefully serve the neediest children," Struck said.

If you would like to help, call Feeding South Dakota at 605.335.0364 or go to the Feeding South Dakota website.

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