In this rural corner of Henry County, Mo., about 90 miles southeast of Kansas City, Vickie Thrasher is raising two of her grandchildren.
She wanted to give them a better life and keep them out of the child welfare system. She spent most of her savings to get them what they needed — toys and clothes, bedding and other essentials — and now the three live in her two-bedroom mobile home.
A cook at a nearby hospital, Thrasher says gas to and from work and the kids’ school can run from $160 to $200 every two weeks. Add in the mortgage payment, light bill and phone and there’s often not a lot of money for food. The $180 she gets in monthly federal food assistance doesn’t go far for three people.
“A lot of times we run from payday to payday,” Thrasher said.
So her grandkids, Jerry, 7, and Jazs, 5, are among the 17,000 elementary school students who get Harvesters BackSnacks each Friday.
“They bring their backpacks home with pride,” Thrasher said. “It’s like they’re getting something special.”
For the past two weeks, The Star has run stories about childhood hunger in the 26-county area that Harvesters serves. This year’s KC Challenge looked at hunger through the eyes of children and their families.
The teen who used to be embarrassed to say her family needed food but now doesn’t miss a mobile food pantry provided by Harvesters every two weeks. The kindergartner who shares his pack of food with his mom. The fifth-grader whose weekly food is used for a meal that feeds up to seven people.
Thrasher puts away her grandchildren’s food each week, and they pull things out when they’re hungry. They like the ravioli and cereal best.
“I feel down in the dumps when I don’t like something,” Jerry said.
He smiles when he admits he doesn’t really like the dried fruit he brings home.
Thrasher hopes people realize how much the packs help kids when family money is tight. And they mean a lot to her grandchildren.
“It gives them a reassurance that someone cares other than Grandma.”