Local Organizations Address Hunger in East Lansing Schools
Across the East Lansing Public School District, more than 494 families are eligible for support to receive free or reduced lunch. While a free lunch makes a difference, it doesn’t supply students with sufficient energy to start the day or last the weekend. Local nonprofit organizations are now working together to address that gap through the Backpack Program.
The idea of the Backpack Program is to supply hungry students with the food they need without embarrassing them in any way. Don Power, one of the leaders of the local program through the Kiwanis, explains the process of the programs: “Since we’re not allowed to know the names of the students [who are to be assisted], we are given their locker numbers, and every other week, the backpacks are filled with food for the kids to have each day.” The backpacks are then dropped at the lockers.
Weekend Survival Kits work in a similar fashion, with boxes of food being delivered on Fridays for social workers to give to kids through the schools. According to Power, a local organization called Many Hands does the packing, and local members of Kiwanis and the Rotary Club (along with other volunteers) do the delivery. Kroger has played an essential role in the success of the Weekend Survival Kits, funding the program.
Founded in 2012, Many Hands works to help feed the hungry children throughout Michigan, serving Dansville, East Lansing, Haslett, Lansing, Okemos, Waverly, Williamston, Holt, Ingham ISD, Webberville and DeWitt. Their mission is “To provide food on the weekends to children in grades K-5 who may otherwise go hungry ultimately helping remove barriers to academic success.”
Nearly 70 schools across Clinton, Ingham, Livingston, Shiawassee, and Wayne counties are feeding about 3,500 children through the Backpack Program. “Without the help of Many Hands, these programs wouldn’t be possible,” states Power.
With the program continuing to branch out to other areas of Michigan, Power is working with members of the East Lansing Kiwanis and Many Hands to ensure that the resources aren’t spread too thin as the groups work to help more schools throughout the State. According to Many Hands, one out of four children in Mid-Michigan are “food insecure,” meaning that they cannot be sure of having enough food from day-to-day.