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Hudson Backpack Program expands to middle school

Karrie Hoffman of Associated Bank in Hudson packs food into backpacks to be distributed to families at E.P. Rock School. (submitted photo)1 / 2
Barb Chapman of Hudson United Methodist Church with filled backpacks ready for delivery to E.P. Rock School. (submitted photo)2 / 2

Thanks to some new funding, the Hudson Area Backpack Program will now be serving more students than ever.

Additional donations from the Hudson Hospital Foundation, North Hudson Man of the Year and the WING group has given the program the opportunity to expand into Hudson Middle School, said program coordinator Marg Wopat.

“It’s funding that we’ve never had before,” Wopat said. “So you know we’re always looking how we can expand and meet the need because it’s huge.”

The Backpack Program provides weekend food for students in need, and a large portion of the participants in the program receive free or reduced lunches.

“We know there’s a strong need,” Marg said. “Their weekend food is a problem because they’re having their major meal at school, with their lunches.”

Those involved in the program get sent home with a backpack full of food twice a month. The backpack has food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including oatmeal, cereal, spaghetti, tuna, peanut butter, and more. The backpacks also include vouchers to a local grocery store, this year it’s County Market, for additional items like eggs, milk, bread and cheese.

Ten different area churches run the program, with help from about 38 total volunteers. All food is provided by the church through donations, and each church has a different menu of items for the school they support.

Prior to the expansion, the program served all the elementary schools in the Hudson area, public and private, as well as the early childhood development program at River Crest.

Between the elementary schools and now the middle school, the program will serve 165 kids with a backpack for each of them.

“People don’t think there’s any hunger in Hudson and if you look at the numbers of free and reduced kids it’s very obvious. There's definitely a need,” Wopat said.

School counselors are the only ones who know what kids take part in the program, Wopat said. The students pick up the backpacks in their offices.

“They come in and pick it up and out they go,” Wopat said. “It’s very confidential.”

In addition to the standard weekend backpacks, the program will also support the middle school by providing snacks for counselors to give to hungry students, and 15 gift cards to the grocery stores for students who are determined to be dealing with extreme hunger.

“We’re real excited about it and we’re always looking for ways to meet the needs,” Wopat said.

The program also provides toiletry items like shampoo and toothpaste three or four times a year.

The hope of the program is simple - to feed the hungry children in Hudson.

“The overall goal would be someday that all Hudson children have enough food, so no Hudson children go to bed hungry,” Wopat said.

Though many people are unaware of it, Wopat said that is not the case right now.

“It’s just hard for some of these families. They’re not making a lot of money to have any kind of a security behind them,” she said.

The volunteers in program, Wopat said, are extremely grateful for all the support they have received from the community. Anyone who wants to help can donate to Hudson Area Backpack Program at P.O. Box 491. The program also accepts donations of food, but Wopat said specified sizes are best so the items can fit in the backpacks.

“You know nobody wants kids to be hungry,’ Wopat said. “and I think once there is an awareness that there is hunger in Hudson, people are very supportive.”

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

(651) 301-7858
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