YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) – Having a nutritious meal is an important part of our day. However it’s something many people may go without.
In Yankton, an estimated 1 in 4 children are living below the poverty line. That’s why programs in the community are making sure kids have enough food not only during school, but also after school and on weekends.
Volunteers are spending their evening packing meals- and it’s all for a good cause. The food will be going to kids in Yankton.
Yankton Food for Thought provides food all year round. ‘Sack packs’ are put together by volunteers.
“It has two breakfast items in there, and two entrée choices, we always have juice, we rotate with shelf stable milk, and we always have a snack and fresh fruit and canned fruit,” YSD child nutrition director, Yankton Food for Thought, Sandi Kramer said.
About 350 packs are made up and put into these bins, which will then be distributed to kids at the end of the week.
“The teachers get the sacks and put them into their backpack and it will go home with them on the weekend,” Kramer said. “Hunger doesn’t stop on Friday, they still have to eat on the weekend and so that’s why we felt there was a need for this.”
This is done weekly. Every week a different volunteer group comes in to help. This week there are volunteers from First Dakota National Bank.
“We have a group of retired volunteers that come in every week before the other volunteers come in and they get everything ready, so they open up all the packs, they get everything organized so when the next group comes in all they have to do is get in the assembly line and help us count,” Kramer said.
In addition to ‘sack packs,’ Lincoln Elementary has a school food pantry, which is open to all families two Wednesday’s out of the month.
“It’s for the entire district, so if parents or grandparents have kids that live in the Yankton School District, they can be public school, private, Christian school or home school, that’s one of the requirements, preschool through 12th grade, then they are eligible for the food pantry,” Lincoln Elementary School principal, Paul Struck said.
The school food pantry started about four years ago.
“It came about because my daughter worked for Feeding South Dakota, and went to a national conference and heard about school food pantries,” Struck said. “At the conference she called me and she said dad we have to do this.”
Struck says the food is free for families and they average about 100 families each time the pantry is open. So far they’ve distributed over 200,000 pounds of food.
“We have bread, pastries, peppers, bananas, lots of cereal, shelf stable milk, hamburger helper,” Struck said. “I open up the freezer and say you can have chicken or beef or hamburger.”
Volunteers also help organize the food pantry.
“We have volunteers every other Wednesday and volunteers that come every Tuesday morning, a retired high school principal, and our janitor helps and then we have volunteers that come every other Wednesday, some are USD med students, a lot of them are retired or current teachers,” Struck said.
Making this a positive way to make sure no child is left hungry.
“This helps fill that gap, because hunger doesn’t stop,” Kramer said.