BY MELANIE WADE –
The Mena Lioness Lions have announced a new partnership for their Backpack Program that sends dozens of children from all three county school districts home with food for the weekend each Friday in an effort to combat food insecurity. Patty Young, Chair of the program, said they are now partnering with the River Valley Regional Foodbank out of Fort Smith. Young is excited about the new partnership and looks forward to working with them.
The Mena Lioness Lions have headed up the Backpack Program for several years and raise several thousands of dollars each year to support the program and insure its future in the county. In previous years, the Lioness have partnered with Arkansas Rice Depot, using their buying power to get bulk prices for the kid friendly packs.
“We forget what a privilege it is to have funds to go to the grocery store and buy food,” said Lioness Patty Young. Through the Backpack Program, children are able to take a backpack of ‘kid-friendly, ready-to-eat or simple-to-prepare’ food home with them from school each week to give them something to eat on the weekends while away from school. Not only does it give the student food to eat, they also have food for younger siblings that have not reached school age. Most of the kids they serve get free or reduced lunches at school, but the struggle comes on the weekends, and over holiday breaks. “Most kids get really excited about breaks from school but for the kids on our program, that’s a very troubling thought, that they’re not going to get regular food. The backpacks and meal kits fill that need.”
To fully implement the Backpack Program into a school, it costs $3,000 per semester per school. That’s $6,000 per year, and with Polk County having a total of eight schools, that equals $48,000 in just Polk County. Last year, the Mena Lioness Lions were able to raise more than $23,000 with help from many area businesses, organizations, and individuals.
The Lioness are preparing to kick off their fundraising efforts for the program. One of those efforts is a collaboration with Pulse Multi-Media – the 3rd Annual Harvest of Hope Radiothon will be held in November. There will also be other events that will benefit the program. Look for details on future events coming soon. For more information on the Backpack Program, a list of kid-friendly items to donate, or if you would like to conduct a food drive for the program, contact Patty Young at 479-394-2211 or any Lioness member.