As the 2014-15 school year approaches, the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri is seeking sponsorships for the Adopt a Buddy program for the upcoming school year.
The program’s Buddy Pack program began in 2005 and provides a backpack full of non-perishable food each weekend to children who qualify for free or reduced-lunch programs in Pettis County during the school year. When the program began it covered three schools in two counties, but now serves 137 schools in 28 counties.
In 2012 the Food Bank began the Adopt a Buddy program where individuals can sponsor a child for 50 cents a day, $15 a month or $180 per school year.
“That is when we reached out to our communities for help and support,” said Regional Director Darren White. “Before, we were doing it all ourselves financially, and we couldn’t do that any more. So we asked the community if they could help fund and support their kids. I’d like to stress too, that all funding that is brought in, stays in the community in which it’s brought in. So anyone that’s giving in Pettis County, goes toward helping Pettis County kids — it’s not going to go to another county.”
Sixty-three percent of the students in Pettis County qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs, which is one of the highest percentages in the Food Bank’s service area, White said.
“We are trying to continue to build awareness of the program,” White added. “We’re at 64 kids sponsored as of right now for this coming year, and the numbers are 210.”
The 210 children are all from surrounding schools in the Sedalia School District 200, Dresden’s Pettis County R-XII School District and the Smithton R-VI School District.
“Just because they are free and reduced-lunch doesn’t necessarily mean they need a backpack,” White said. “We’re hitting 210 and that number comes from counselors and teachers and administrators at schools. They let us know — the Food Bank ourselves we don’t determine which kids get a backpack. They let us know how many they need per school, and then we provide what they need.”
White said Cindy Morris at Third National Bank is the local contact for those wishing to help sponsor a child in Pettis County.
“We’re trying to make it easier to give,” White added. “They can drop the funding off at the bank and if they have questions they can call.”
White added that the Food Bank serves 32 counties in the Buddy Pack Program, and tries to supply nutritious non-perishable food in the packs.
“Peanut butter as a staple once a month — it has a lot of protein in it,” he said. “It’s kid-friendly and kids love it. We have maybe a granola bar, some kind of grain product, cereal, shelf-stable milk, individual packages of fruit of some sort. It’s about five pounds of food, that goes out at one time, for the weekend. So they get backpacks every Friday throughout the school year to take home.”
The “Buddy Bank,” or packing/distribution point, this year will be at State Fair Community College.
“That’s where volunteers will pack the food for the backpacks,” he said. “That’s where the food will be shipped. And we’ll have some people take it to the schools — that will either be teachers from the schools or volunteers.”
White said they are in the process of finding volunteers for transporting the food from SFCC to the schools.
“Different areas of ours do it different ways,” he said. “Some of them have teachers willing to pick them up, (for) others it’s just retired folks that might take it, Lions Clubs are involved in one area, so the more volunteers the merrier.”
The Food Bank also has 131 partner agencies throughout the 32 counties it serves, such as CASA, Open Door Ministries and the Salvation Army.
“Last year we shipped almost four million pounds of food to Pettis County,” White said. “Last year was one of our biggest years, we shipped throughout the 32 counties over 36 million (pounds of food). This year won’t be as much, it will be around 30 million, but it will still be significant.”
Those interested in sponsoring a child in the Adopt a Buddy program may make their check payable to Adopt a Buddy and mail it to Third National Bank, Attention: Cindy Morris, 403 W. Broadway Blvd., Sedalia, Mo., 65302-0351. For more information contact White at the Food Bank at 573-474-1020 or 800-764-3663.