Buddy Pack Program Face Cuts as Districts try to Meet Demand
COLUMBIA - The Mid-Missouri Food Bank's Buddy Pack program faces cutting students from the program if it does not recieve more funding or donations.
Last year, the program served aproximately 8,600 students in Mid-Missouri. This school year, they currently have the funding to serve only 4,500 students. Food Bank Director Peggy Kirpatrick said rising food costs are mainly to blame. In a 5 month span, the cost of funding a student for nine months increased from $100 to $180.
"We notified the schools that if we did not recieve more funding or donations, we would have to cut students in the program. It's all about getting the community on board. The more the community supports it, the more we can provide," said Kirpatrick.
With the notification that the Food Bank may not be able to contribute as much next year, some schools like Eldon Public Schools are creating similar programs to help feed students. Ashley Hanks organizes the program for Eldon. Hanks said that 60 percent of her students qualify for free or reduced lunch, the factor that determines whether students qualify for the Buddy Pack Program. That 60 percent is 225 students.
"We got a notice that if funding did not approve, the Food Bank could only serve 20 students in Miller County. We decided to create our own program as we did not want it to die," said Hanks.
Mustang Packs will be similar to the Food Bank's Buddy Pack Program but will be a school ran program. Hanks wants to try to reach out to 100 students this first year. Hanks reached out to the Food Bank to see how they ran the program and Kirpatrick handed her information to understand how the program works.
"It does not matter how students recieve food, as long as they get fed," said Kirpatrick. "Ashland Public Schools already have a successful program ran by the community, not us. We are trying to feed as many students as possible," said Kirpatrick.
Currently, 56,000 students in Mid-Missouri qualify for the program. This upcoming year about 11 percent of those who qualify will be served. Kirpatrick wants to emphasize that more can be served with community help and until the school year starts, schools should not worry about what the numbers show now.