A new program at Forestview Middle School is sending bags of food home with kids who otherwise might go hungry.
It’s called Power Packs, and inside each plastic grocery bag are about 15 snacks that kids can take and eat when not at school.
It’s a much-needed option in a school with nearly 42 percent of students on free or reduced lunch, said Sara Lembcke, special education teacher at Forestview and head of the Power Packs program.
“It’s likely that the only meals some of these kids are getting are at school,” she said. “So it’s important to make sure they have food at night and on the weekends.”
September is National Hunger Action Month, so officials are trying to get the word out about the program.
Similar programs to Power Packs are in many local elementary schools, but it’s the first time in the middle school, Lembcke said.
That’s thanks to a $10,000 donation from the Brainerd Jaycees Run for the Lakes 2013 proceeds. The grant should fuel the project for two years.
Lembcke, a member of the Brainerd Jaycees, said a monthly shipment of 200 packs comes from the local food bank. Inside each bag are nonperishable foods such as cereal bars, juice boxes, fruit snacks and beans.
They are kept on hand and given out to students as needed and with guardian approval.
Sometimes the older kids are forgotten when it comes to giving a helping hand, Lembcke said. It can be a rough transition for fifth-graders who were used to getting the extra food while at the elementary school.
“The 10-15-year-olds still need help,” she added.
Determining just how big the need is at the school is tough, said Levi Becker, Forestview’s family service worker.
Some families don’t want to ask for help, or the topic of hunger is just avoided altogether. But Becker knows that need is there.
“Times are tight. It’s one those things, (families) try to pay other bills and sometimes food gets pushed aside a little bit,” he said.
So far, a couple of dozen power packs have been handed out between Becker and Lembcke, but they suspect that number to quickly jump when more people hear about it.