Originally published in The Nugget News, September 27, 2016
by: Erin Borla
The Sisters Family Access Network (FAN) is working hard to maintain a program which retired elementary school custodian Deb Hook began three years ago. The “Backpack Food” program was something Hook started in order to support Sisters School District children who may not have food at their homes over the weekend.
Throughout the week, the federally subsidized free and reduced lunch program, available through each of the schools in Sisters, helps to feed those students who may need an extra hand throughout the week. Hook noticed that many of those same students who benefitted from that program were struggling to find food when not in school. She began loading backpacks with food she purchased to ensure no kid went hungry over the weekend.
This program demonstrates Sisters students are supported beyond the walls of the school building.
When Hook retired last June there was no question among local educators and service providers that the program needed to continue. FAN jumped in to make sure all needs were met. Theresa Slavkovsky and Dawn Cooper, both FAN advocates, are coordinating food donations and student participation.
Right now, Slavkovsky notes there are between 30 and 40 students that can benefit from the program.
Both Cooper and Slavkovsky’s goal is for each bag to be sent home from school on Fridays with participating students to have two options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
“The hope is that the food options sent home would mimic what would be available to the child during their school day,” said Cooper.
All students in the program are confidential. Registration will be done through a permission slip sent home based on Sisters School District staff recommendations. The permission slip talks about the program and also alerts participating families of potential allergens.
Volunteer Coordinator Bill Anttila with Sisters Kiwanis has organized older students from Sisters Christian Academy to help pack the bags. He will deliver them to the appropriate school on Fridays for students to pick up on their way home.
Community members can donate non-perishable foods for weekend meals including items like individual packages of snacks, granola bars, applesauce, trail mix, dried fruit and oatmeal. Donations of individual soups, small plastic jars of peanut butter and jelly, or small boxes of cereal are also accepted.
Slavkovsky estimates that each bag will cost approximately $7 to fill. Some organizations have chosen to sponsor a bag with a cash donation.
All donations can be dropped off at the FAN office, within the Sisters School District Office at 525 E. Cascade Ave. and are tax-deductible through the Family Access Network.