SPRINGFIELD TWP. Students in Springfield Local Schools have benefitted from a new program with the goal to send weekend meals home for students.
Because of a variety of situations, students don’t always have enough to eat over the weekend. The packs are filled with snacks and easy to make items. From fruit cups and Slim Jims to soups and mac and cheese, the items are thought out so students are full and receive protein. Sometimes, breakfast and lunch at school are the only meals kids get during the week.
Heather Anderson began developing the program last summer and the goal was to be able to send 50 students home with snack packs each weekend. That goal was met quickly and now snack packs go home every weekend to 100 students.
Anderson said the bags are handed to the children when they get off the bus at their homes on Fridays. The program covers Young and Spring Hill elementary schools and Schrop Intermediate School, with a goal of doing more at the junior high and high school. All students in a family receive the snack packs no matter what grade they are in.
The program is financially supported by the Springfield Cares organization, developed through the years to help community members in Springfield and Lakemore (Springfield Local School District) in a variety of ways, including providing Christmas to approximately 65 families each year and providing school back packs in August.
Anderson said, along with the support of Springfield Cares and other local entities, they now are also receiving food donations from the Akron-Canton Food Bank which allows them to provide more students with the snack packs.
"That has helped to keep the cost down and we can do more snack packs," she said.
It was costing about $1.20 per bag when the program began and now, with the help of the food bank, the cost per bag has been lowered to about 50 cents.
According to Anderson, in Summit County alone there are 27,000 kids that have food insecurities and Ohio ranks third in the nation in food insecurities.
"We grow food. Why are we third? It is just the circumstances," she said.
Anderson said the schools have been very supportive.
Superintendent Chuck Sincere attended the Feb. 15 packing of the snack packs and while he was there said it was, "just incredible."
Student Council members from S.U.P.E.R Learning Center in Lakemore were on hand to help pack the bags that day. Sincere spoke to the students telling them they were doing a great job and thanked them for all they were doing and to keep up the good work.
Springfield Cares President Nancy Rodrigues said she wanted to thank everyone that is helping by donations of food and money to support the program.
"We are so happy to have had the support of the district and community to help get this program up and running," she said. "It has grown so quickly and we are so happy to be helping the kids of Springfield Local Schools."
S.U.P.E.R. Learning Center founder Lyn Goodwin said it is important for the students to volunteer in the community. It teaches them life skills, job skills and a sense of belonging.
"They are proud to be in the community and they feel connected," Goodwin said.
The packs include two breakfast items, two lunch items, two dinner items and snacks for each day. Sample items include Ramen noodles, soup, apple sauce, oatmeal, fruit cups and cereal, to name a few.
Anderson said she received a lot of help from Jennifer Dooer from Green Blessings in a Backpack.
"I had no idea where to start and she met with me a couple times and answered a multitude of questions and she gave me a ton of pointers from what has and hadn't worked for them," Anderson said.
Millheim Church and the Lakemore United Methodist Church have been involved in helping by donating to the program.
The Spartan Snack Pack is looking for area businesses, churches or community organizations to have food drives, provide donations or are willing to volunteer to pack the bags.
For more information on how to help, contact Anderson at 330-622-2933.
To donate food items drop them off at the Lakemore Police Department or the offices of Schrop Intermediate School or Young and Spring Hill elementary schools. Monetary donations can be sent to Springfield Cares, 1386 Hidden Lake Boulevard, Akron, Ohio 44312.