To help ensure that no child in the Northland goes hungry on weekends, Feed Northland Kids hosted a benefit July 21 at the Platte Woods United Methodist Church.
Nearly 150 guests attended the event, A Swingin’ Beat for Hunger Relief, to support the organization and its mission to provide hunger-relief assistance for Northland kids.
The event included appetizers, drinks, and a concert by music duo Victor and Penny. Though the evening’s atmosphere was lighthearted, the organization’s staff, volunteers and board of directors shared the gravity of the problem of hunger in the Northland, and their united passion to eliminate this “invisible” yet pervasive issue.
“Childhood hunger is a reality here,” said Feed Northland Kids Executive Director Chris Evans. “But it is a solvable reality.”
Feed Northland Kids was co-founded by Fred Mitchell and Michael Short in 2009.
“When I learned there were so many kids in the Northland going to school hungry, I wanted to take some action,” Short said.
At that time, thousands of children were deemed food insecure in Platte and Clay counties. Though school programs assisted with meals during the school week, these children spent their weekends hungry.
In the eight years since its founding, Feed Northland Kids has partnered with Harvesters regional food bank, local businesses and organizations and many volunteers to provide healthy food in the form of BackSnacks. Elementary-age children take BackSnacks home on Fridays, so they no longer face hunger on the weekends.
In its inaugural year, Feed Northland Kids provided weekend BackSnacks to 1,000 local school-age children.
In 2016, that number had reached nearly 3,000 students attending Platte and Clay county elementary schools. These services will expand again in 2017. At the onset of the program, many of the area’s schools also had large numbers of students on BackSnack wait-lists. As of 2016, these wait-lists no longer exist.
The organization, which has established an endowment that will fund the program into the future, plans to launch a weekend food pantry for the area’s middle and high schools during 2017.
Addressing the needs of middle and high school youth who suffer from food scarcity and hunger is far more challenging than serving hungry elementary children, Evans said.
“Elementary kids are proud to take home their BackSnacks,” Evans said. “But, there is a stigma attached to being hungry in middle and high school. You don’t want to stick out for any reason. These kids would rather go hungry than deal with the social fallout.”
The new program will allow middle- and high-school students to select food after school in the privacy of the office of a counselor or other staff member.
Though Feed Northland Kids has received support and involvement from Platte and Clay County residents, the program’s leader also hear from people who question the necessity of the program.
“If a child is hungry, you take care of it,” Evans said. “All that matters is that they are hungry. Meet the need. End of story.”
How to help
▪ Provide a backpack to one child for a year at a cost of $250.
▪ Participate or volunteer for the Feed Northland Kids’ seventh annual Bill Cross Feed 5K Walk/Run for BackSnacks on Oct. 9.
▪ Volunteer as a business or organization community partner to ensure BackSnack backpacks are packed, picked up, cleaned, and delivered weekly.
▪ Volunteer with Harvesters’ BackSnack program. Feed Northland Kids partners with Harvesters by providing volunteer groups on a regularly scheduled basis to help create the BackSnacks. Visit www.feednorthlandkids.org for more information.