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Kidsí After School Pack Program

Since 2006, the Kids’ After School Pack Program has worked to alleviate hunger among kids living in eight south central Michigan counties. Dedicated volunteers, collaborating organizations, and an organized staff make sure that vulnerable students eat each day they are away from school, thanks to this Food Bank of South Central Michigan food-for-the-weekend program. 
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Food Bank of South Central Michigan Director of Fund Development Dan Salerno: The Kids’ After-School Pack Program is tackling the issue of childhood hunger at its source, right where the kids are. It is a practical approach: if you want to find kids, you go to the elementary schools. We take the afterschool packs of food to the schools on Thursday and Fridays so the kids can take them home for the weekend.
The idea is for them to have food when school-based meals are not available because, often, the meals they get at school are their main source of food. And two days without food is a very big deal to a kid.
 What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
It’s an ongoing learning process; success happens one child at a time. The bigger picture always comes down to one single individual. Every child who gets one of those packs is now food secure. For any nonprofit, there’s always tension between the resources available and the extent of the need, and this realization has become clearer to me this year. We just finished
Through this program kids not only get food, but they get the message that people are truly invested in their well-being.
a capital campaign. That’s big because it means growth. I’m out there trying to raise money to help feed one child at a time.
There are so many lessons to be learned. Through this program kids not only get food, but they get the message that people are truly invested in their well-being. That someone cares. That is so powerful.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
There will always be an ongoing lack of resources, and that’s the hardest challenge for us. In our case, it always boils down to money.
Given the statistics, there are 45,000 food-insecure kids in our service area and that’s almost the size of the population of the City of Battle Creek. We partnered with 21 elementary schools in 2011-2012, and 34,800 kids get food from us every year.  We try to do everything possible to reach more, but accepting the fact that we cannot is just human survival. You can’t get overwhelmed by those you can’t reach. When we are talking about children, it’s not rocket science: there are consequences if you don’t help children with early interventions. Studies point to the relationship between adequate nutrition and the ability to learn.
What really differentiates this program?
One thing that really makes our program unique is that we have space right here at the food bank do all of this work. Typical nonprofits are not always fortunate enough to have that, and they have to spread their work out to different sites. 
We do get many volunteers because we have one space to do everything – nearly one-quarter of the food bank is dedicated to the Kids’ After School Pack Program. There are many groups and individuals who volunteer to help; this really is volunteer-driven, and I know that a week doesn’t go by that there are not people working here on the afterschool food packs. Each one contains an average of seven to 10 pounds of nonperishable foods, like hearty soups, canned fruits, juices and cereal, so each child who gets a pack becomes food secure.
Volunteers put them together in an assembly line process method. We have the space to do it, and we have a really good volunteer coordinator. I think that’s why we have so many people who are willing to give their time to this program.
What are the keys to success for your program?
I think it is the blend of resources that we have at our disposal. Corporate and individual volunteers, school groups, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, and food bank staff all join together to make the Kids’ After-School Pack Program happen.
If the schools were not on board, if principals didn’t believe in this, it wouldn’t happen. We have a great relationship with the
When we are talking about children, it's not rocket science: there are consequences if you don't help children with early interventions.
schools, with the food manufacturers, the foundations, and the corporations that help us get food to so many children.
What are people in your program most inspired by?
That domestic hunger is a solvable challenge. People walk away inspired after they help with this. They are inspired by the fact that they are helping to get food to the people who need it most, but also by the realization that they are serving as agents of conservation by capturing food that might not be used otherwise.
The United States produces billions of pounds of food every year that goes uneaten, so the challenge is not that there isn’t enough food to go around. The challenge is getting that food to households in need. People walk away knowing that there really is a problem with hunger here and they are inspired to be making a difference.
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  • Food Bank of South Central Michigan
    The mission of the Food Bank of South Central Michigan is to feed hungry people by collecting and distributing food and grocery products, advocating for hunger-relief programs and collaborating with others who address basic human needs.


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