Backpack program at Cornell Head Start helps feed hungry kids

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CORNELL, Wis. (WEAU) – A local mom and substitute teacher says she noticed more bowls of food were being eaten by kids on Mondays than any other day of the week.

Ashley Bera says as teacher at Cornell Head Start and a mom, she’s concerned because she believes kids should never have to go hungry.

“Every child should have three meals a day. I know these meals can't always be nutritious because it’s expensive,” says Bera.

That’s why she helped initiate the first “backpack program” at Cornell Head Start, so that no child goes hungry through the weekend.

On Wednesday, staff and volunteers at Head Start began packing donated blue Wal-Mart totes full of food from Feed My People Food Bank.

Bera says the organization has donated two meals per day for the weekend for 50 children of 36 families. Parents who wanted to sign up, had the chance to sign up for the program.

“I had went to a community function on a Monday morning when breakfast was served and I watched a child eat four bowls of cereal and I thought, you know that’s not right. I know kids eat a lot, but for a child to eat four bowls of cheerios? I just knew something wasn’t right,” she says.

After doing some research, Bera found the amount of food kids eat on Monday versus any other day of the week is incomparable.

“On Mondays, kids will eat 30 to 40 percent more than what they do Tuesday through Friday,” Bera says, adding that some kids don’t get the adequate food they need on the weekends because it’s not as readily available.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, more than 2,400 children in Chippewa County were on Food Share. UW-Extension says that number has likely gone up.

“People have gotten laid off from jobs, rent is expensive. It’s all that, it’s mostly the economy and Head Start is a low income program,” says center director Karen Phelps.

Among the food that can be found in each tote include a blend of fun and healthy snacks like banana chips, oat meal, mixed nuts, cereal, ravioli, can of corn, cookies and granola bar.

Come Friday, Bera says for the first time, 50 kids will have meals for the weekend so that on Monday, they’ll be energized and ready to learn.

Bera says if you would like to help with any of the area backpack programs, you can donate food directly to Feed My People Food Bank or your local food pantry.

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