Hundreds of volunteers lined up in the Second Harvest warehouse Saturday to put together bags of food for elementary school children who might otherwise go hungry during the weekend.
The assembly-line packing effort was organized by At the Core, a group that has made it its mission to look after poor children. Each green plastic bag was filled with juice, milk, snacks, cereal and canned pasta – enough for breakfast and lunch for two days. “They slide it in the kids’ backpacks on Friday during recess so they’re not embarrassed about taking it home,” organizer Tom Stevenson said.
At the Core started small three years ago. Brenna and Chris Sloan asked Meadow Ridge Elementary School in the Mead School District what they could do to help. The school had just gotten a grant from Second Harvest to start a weekend meal program for low-income students, and the Sloans were asked to run it. The money only lasted six months, but Brenna Sloan knew how valuable the program was. “We had to keep it going somehow,” she said Saturday.
The Sloans asked their church, Timberview Christian Fellowship, for volunteers to step up and sponsor children. “They did, in force,” Brenna Sloan said. “It’s just grown from there.”
The A Bite 2 Go program is in every elementary school in the Mead and Riverside school districts and has recently expanded to Spokane schools. Cooper, Hamblen, Adams and Willard elementary schools are participating, and a new sponsor stepped forward to begin providing meals at Madison Elementary this week.
It costs $3.90 to provide each meal bag. Second Harvest buys the food for the group. “They have great buying power,” Stevenson said.
The group will be reaching about 650 students every Friday beginning this week, but Stevenson said they believe 4,000 students need the help. In Spokane Public Schools, 49 percent of students qualify for free breakfast and lunch, and “We’re feeding the hungriest of those kids,” he said.
The students who receive the bags are identified by teachers and counselors, who know which students routinely go without food on the weekends. Stevenson said the goal is to expand to serve every child who needs help. “That’s our goal, to get them all in the next couple of years,” he said. “We are going to businesses and churches and asking them to adopt schools.”