Willow River joins local backpack programWillow River Elementary is the latest Hudson school to participate in the Hudson Area Backpack Program. The program provides groceries for families in non-descript backpacks to carry home for the weekend or vacations.
Willow River Elementary is the latest Hudson school to participate in the Hudson Area Backpack Program.
The program provides groceries for families in non-descript backpacks to carry home for the weekend or vacations.
Pastor Brian Ferguson of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church coordinated the 12-week pilot program at Rock Elementary in the spring of 2008. A number of churches each took a week to gather the food and fill the backpacks. The program was deemed a success, and that fall four churches — Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Hudson United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church and Family of Christ Lutheran Church — began partnering with Rock, North Hudson, and Houlton elementary schools.
Last year the program expanded to Prairie Elemen-tary, partnered by Christ Center Assembly of God Church, and River Crest and St. Patrick Elementary Schools, both partnered by St. Patrick Church. With the addition of Willow River Ele-mentary partnered by Faith Community Church this fall, all of the public elementary schools in the Hudson School District, plus St. Patrick School, are being served.
According to program coordinator Jan Standafer, the idea is help meet the needs of families when other resources are not available. Backpacks are filled with foods that are child-friendly, nonperishable, easily consumed and vitamin fortified. They are discreetly distributed by the school twice a month, on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation. The children return the empty backpack to the school the next time school is in session.
Letters from the participating school are sent to parents at the first of the school year with a form attached where they can indicate their desire to participate. At this time, there are 110 families in the Hudson School District being served including more than a dozen at Willow River. Parents can sign up for the program at any time and can do so by contacting their school counselor or principal.
The food for the backpacks comes from members of local congregations who sign up to take a green grocery bag to the store and purchase the items that are listed on the menu, about $12 worth of food. They then bring the filled bag back to church the next Sunday. During the week, the items are transferred to backpacks for the children to take home. The backpacks are delivered to the school for distribution. The congregation does not know which children at the school get the backpacks.
Backpacks go home the first and third weekend of the month. Besides the food items, once a month the backpack also contains a voucher for three items at County Market: a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a dozen eggs.
In addition to providing groceries, the program is also supported by monetary donations are received from churches, individuals, and organizations such as the Hudson Lion’s Club and the Philosophical Gentlemen.
For area residents who are not part of a church congregation, there is an opportunity to support the backpack program by purchasing one of the grab bags that County Market prepares and sells periodically, and placing it on the stand designated for the Backpack Program. These bags are divided among the participating churches to use when extra food is needed.
The actual backpacks, new or gently used, are donated by people in the churches.
Cash donations are tax-deductible. Checks can be made out to HUMC - Backpack Program and sent to Hudson United Methodist Church, attn: Barb Chapman, 1401 Laurel, Hudson, WI 54016. For more information, about the program, contact Standafer at (612) 209-5456.