Backpack Program provides weekend meals for hungry kids

August 26, 2016

Margaret Zinser, Kris Hubel and Keri Smith are shown here in their “supply room” at the Clare Church of the Nazarene on Grant Road. “We are just getting started,” Zinser said. Smith added, “Last year these shelves were overloaded with food for the backpacks.”

Margaret Zinser, Kris Hubel and Keri Smith are shown here in their “supply room” at the Clare Church of the Nazarene on Grant Road. “We are just getting started,” Zinser said. Smith added, “Last year these shelves were overloaded with food for the backpacks.”

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Margaret Zinser and two other volunteers, Kris Hubel and Keri Smith, will soon be busy filling “backpacks” with weekend meals for Clare Primary and Middle School youngsters who might not get a nutritious meal on the weekends otherwise.

This is the start of the third year for the Clare Area Backpack Program.

Zinser said, “I started after watching a PBS program about it in McBain. I checked into the school to ask if Clare had such a need. To my surprise, we sure did.”

She said she started filling backpacks in October that year.

That first half year they fed about 22 kids, mostly in the Clare Primary School, but also their siblings in Middle School when there is a need.

The kids in need are identified by classroom teachers who know which kids need some assistance.
A letter is sent out to them (grades 1 to 4) asking if they would like to be involved in the program.
Some backpacks are filled only for one youngster, some for two and sometimes for up to three youngsters in the same family.

Their second year about 53 students were given backpacks of food for the weekends during the school year.
The Clare Church of the Nazarene provides a room to store the non-perishable food items. “Pastor Jim Young and Pastor Jeremy have been great to work with along with Kathleen David. Without their kindness, I don’t know what we would do,” Zinser said.

At the end of the school year items that are not outdated and that have not made it into a backpack are donated to the church for their own food pantry.

Money and food is donated by many people throughout the community and the non-perishable food items are stored in the room provided by the church.

The ladies go shopping twice a month to buy items for the backpacks. This year’s backpacks were donated by Jerry Witbeck and Judy and Sam Brankle, who regularly donate to the project.

“People bring us food, juice boxes, candy on holidays and more as their way of donating,” Zinser said. “It’s great when someone who cares so much delivers to us or if that’s not possible, I will go and pick items up.”

The backpacks are filled with cereal, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly, packaged or fresh fruit when they have it or “find a good buy.” They add tuna, noodles, soups, spaghetti, chicken dinners, fruit snacks, crackers and cookies if available. “We try to add and delete [items] so they [the youngsters] don’t think it is the same thing every time.”

She added, “We have received generous donations from local businesses and individuals.”
Once a week Margaret, Kris and Keri get together and load the backpacks. They are delivered to the classrooms with the youngster’s name on them and sent home with them. They are returned the following Thursday. “We send three meals home for Saturday and Sunday and try to include fresh fruit and nutrition items.” Zinser said.

Right now the program is provided for Clare Primary students, although the ladies would like to expand the program to include middle school students and possibly develop a “pantry” in the high school where students could come and pick up items.

They are just getting started collecting food for this year’s students with a need. “Any donations are welcome,” Zinser said, “and we have some gracious people who also just go ‘shopping’ and buy items. All of this makes it work.”

Anyone who would like to help the ladies with the Clare Area Backpack Program this year and are interested in donating food or money can contact Zinser at 989-429-6778, Zinser said. “Help our kids that need help right here in Clare!”

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *