KELLOGG — It’s an unfortunate truth that many Silver Valley children do not have access to appropriate meal opportunities.
With the child poverty rate of Shoshone County sitting at 26%, school provided meals can sometimes be the only food they will receive. While school meals help keep a child fed Monday through Friday during the school year, there’s still a gap over the weekend that needs to be filled for many.
This is where the Silver Valley Backpack Program, now called the Silver Valley Snack Pak Program, has stepped up in the past.
Originally started and ran by a group under the umbrella of the Lutheran Church in Pinehurst more than five years ago, the rebranded Snack Pak Program is now its own nonprofit organization.
Program Vice President Michele Groves and Treasurer Mary Bren explain that this change was made partly to convey a clearer message and to stay out of possible legal trouble.
“We wanted people to know that it is a snack-type based program, not an actual meal system,” Groves said.
Bren also added that the name “Backpack Program” is trademarked by another entity.
While it has a new name, the Snack Pak Program hasn’t changed its focus, which is to provide students in need with food over a weekend period.
Last year, the program was made possible by the SAVE Coalition and Second Harvest food bank, who provided pre-made food packs to the elementary-age children in the Kellogg School District.
Now, the effort is ran independently by a small, but dedicated, group of volunteers.
The process begins with purchasing the food items from local stores that provide the most affordable pricing. The “paks” must include two breakfast items, two breakfast snacks, two lunch items, two fruits and two general items.
“We try to make sure that it’s stuff they will eat,” Groves said. “In the past, that has been a little bit of a concern at the school is that there was a lot of waste.”
Once the items have been purchased, they are taken to a sort-of staging area at the old Kellogg Middle School where they are sorted by Groves, Bren and many other volunteers into the paks.
These arrangements are then picked up every Friday by Pinehurst Elementary School Principal Mike Groves and taken to the school to be distributed by Sarah Mason.
Mike Groves explains that Mason is also the one who gets applications out to parents so they can apply, helps screen candidates and keeps the roster up to date due to moves and changes in financial situations, etc.
A total of 87 students — and their younger siblings — have benefited from the program this year, an increase from last year’s 73.
The program is financially supported through a combination of individual donations, grant funding, and support from local organizations and businesses.
“It’s fully funded by donations, so as we can get more people aware and get those donations up, we can grow the program,” Bren said.
The SVSPP is grateful to have committed sponsors from several Silver Valley nonprofit organizations like local churches and the Kellogg Rotary Club.
Presently, the program’s best funding resource is word-of-mouth and as a result of this, the program has gained an additional corporate partnership with Dave Smith Motors.
“The management and employees of this organization understand the desperate need in the Silver Valley to keep our children fed and have pledged to help in both the areas of funding and volunteers,” Bren said.
SVSPP would also like to mention that it has a legion of individuals who give annually to this critical source of food for so many including an out-of-state donor with family ties to the area, who sends a check to SVSPP every month.
“It’s these commitments that allow the program to continue with its one simple mission — to help feed our valley’s children.”
Since the effort is entirely volunteer run and donation funded, the program only helps as many children as it can.
With new infusions of both manpower and funding, Groves and Bren hope that SVSPP can grow to help more children in need and maybe even one day provide food during the summer months.
“Any extra funds obtained could be used to expand the qualifying criteria to help even more children,” Groves said. “Currently, the program is very careful to commit only to the number of children each year that it feels it will be able to sustain throughout the entire school year. Therefore, donations are continually accepted and appreciated.”
If you would like to help the Silver Valley Snack Pak Program, donations may be sent to Silver Valley Snack Pak Inc., P.O. Box 81, Pinehurst, ID 83850. The Silver Valley Snack Pak Program is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations may be tax deductible.