Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Program provide kids with food


No child should have to go hungry.

School is hard enough without a child’s tummy grumbling due to hunger. This is one of the reasons why Harrison Elementary School has been implementing the Backpack Program.

Katie Harmon, Harrison Elementary School special education teacher, said the backpack program is a way for children who are hungry to have food on the weekends.

A few years ago the teachers saw a need for this program in their school and decided to form a group to help feed their hungry students on the weekends. At that time, the teachers also donated all of the food for the program.

“There’s a team at our school,” Harmon said. “I am just the chairperson.”

After the success of the program, Harrison Elementary School partnered with Trona Valley Federal Credit Union to keep it going. Harmon said one of the employees at Trona Valley buys all of the food for the school now. 

The purchased food is then brought to the school and the committee divides it up for the families in need and puts the items into cardboard boxes. The committee volunteers then take the boxes to the houses after school on Friday.

“We used to put the food in backpacks, but the backpacks were too heavy for them to carry,” she said.

Harmon said one time she heard about a boy who walked to school who would take turns with his friends carrying the heavy backpack of food home every Friday after school.

They had also heard some of the children were embarrassed by having to carry a big backpack full of food home. They were afraid other children would tease them.

That’s why the committee decided to start putting the food in boxes and deliver it to the homes instead.

Teachers at the school know who is struggling to eat enough food and refer those children to the program. Committee members then reach out to the family of the child and make sure they know how the program works and that it is strictly confidential. Some families decline the help.

“It’s pride,” Harmon said. “They don’t want to admit that they have a need.”

She said the committee members try to explain there are other families that need help in the community and they shouldn’t feel ashamed to accept the food. Last year, the school helped about seven to eight families.

Harmon said that number increases or decreases throughout the year. Some people get jobs and no longer need the service. School employees have noticed that during the winter is when the biggest need occurs. This might be because of heating bills or a family member may have lost a seasonal job.

As for the food in the boxes, the school works hard to make sure there is a little bit of everything in there.

“We try to get all of the different food groups in there,” Harmon said.

Some of the food includes, canned fruits,  vegetables and meats; noodles and spaghetti sauce.

Harmon said things such as Cup O Noodles and single cups of Mac and Cheese are also in included.

It is important for kids to have something in there they can make themselves if they need to. A box of cereal is also included every week.

This is a way to help the families out over the weekend and the children benefit from it the most.

“They’ve eaten over the weekend, so they don’t come in starving,” Harmon said.

The children can come in Monday with a full belly and a mind ready to learn instead of always wondering when they will get their next meal.


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