BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Mena Lioness Lions Club will soon begin to raise money for the Backpack Program, an effort they joined with high results last fall. The Backpack Program, which is funneled through Arkansas Rice Depot, a faith-based organization working to help diminish hunger in the State of Arkansas. The Backpack Program is a program that was started 20 years ago when a school nurse called the already established food bank and explained that she had children whom she believed were having trouble learning and behaving simply because they were hungry. The Rice Depot started providing food to the children to take home on Friday afternoons. When the children were not responding to the sacks of food, they transferred the food to backpacks and the Food for Kids Backpack Program began. This program is now in 650 schools in Arkansas and is feeding 35,000 kids annually. Because of the success of the program it has now been replicated in almost every state in the United States and in several foreign countries.
The program reaches an average of 40 students per school and, because of other donations and low over-head, the backpack program can feed the entire school for $2,400 a year. The program does not just reach the school age children, but also will send additional food for non-school age children in the home. The goal of the Rice Depot is to partner with communities to help feed their children. Local churches, community groups, business or individuals are able to “Adopt a School” and provide the $2,400 support needed to provide food for that school for the school year.
Last year, the Mena Lioness Lions Club committed to help all of Polk County’s schools through the Adopt-a-School program. The Lioness Lions and the community collectively raised over $12,000 to fund the program.
The club was honored by the Mena Education Association as Organization of the Year for their efforts in coordinating the fundraising campaign to fund the Backpack Program. Patty Young, past club president was also honored as the 2014 Volunteer of the Year by the Mena Education Association for her efforts in leading the campaign to fund the program, her service on the Parent Advisory Committee and her volunteerism in numerous capacities.
There will be a kick-off meeting on October 9, at 10 a.m. in the Union Bank of Mena Community Room with guest speaker Sadie Smith from The Rice Depot. Anyone interested in attending is welcome. If you would like more information or to simply support these efforts please contact Patty Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-394-2211 ext. 131.