While the school lunch program helps children from needy families to have healthy lunches during the school day, many of those families struggle on weekends to have enough to eat.

To help fill in part of that gap, two Vinton-Shellsburg High School students are leading the effort to bring “Operation Backpack” to Vinton and Shellsburg.

Operation Backpack provides non-perishable food items such as boxed cereal, fruit cups, granola bars and other items to low-income families.

The program began from a discussion in debate club, said Riley Ries, one of the two organizers of the VS Operation Backpack.

“We were talking about ways to do community service,” recalled Riley. Another club member, Kylie Miracle, suggested a food drive.

At first, the students considered a one-time food drive that could possibly send food to a group that helps feed people in Africa. But then a teacher suggested the local program.

Riley and Kylie have already spoken about the program to the Vinton Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, some churches and other organizations.

They hope to be able to provide 50 children with a small bag of food each Friday. The food costs about $6 per bag (Hacap sells the items to the schools at cost); there are about 34 weeks of school. That comes to $300 per week, or a total of $10,200 for the school year. So far, enough money has been raised to pay for about six weeks’ worth of meals. Monkeytown has offered the use of its van to deliver the food from the Hacap facility in Hiawatha to Vinton. Early donations have come from private individuals, the Knights of Columbus and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

The first distribution day will be Friday, Sept. 5. Students in both Tilford Elementary and Shellsburg Elementary will receive bags that day. To be eligible, the student’s family must be in the free or reduced-price lunch program. District families have received information about the program in letters from the school. Administrators have not yet selected a site for the packing of the items.

The VSHS FFA and National Honor Society organizations will provide the volunteer labor; the most pressing need is funding. Donations may be mailed to the VS Central District Office 1502 C Avenue, Vinton IA 52349. Checks should be made payable to the Vinton-Shellsburg Community Foundation, with “Operation Backpack” in the memo line.

For more information, call or email Riley at 319-213-2509 or by email riley.ries@govikes.org.



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