Food Distribution Programs back in Lincoln Public Schools

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 6:19 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - After a year of not being in schools, the Food Bank of Lincoln is reinstating its three food distribution programs to combat food insecurity in Lincoln Public Schools.

In Lincoln, 46.8% of students from Kindergarten to 12th grade are on free and reduced lunches. School distribution programs are critical to reaching those children.

“All of our schools across our service area are integral for us getting food to children,” said Michaella Kumke, the President and CEO of the Food Bank of Lincoln.

During the 2020 school year, the food bank was only able to provide mobile distributions. Now, the backpack distribution program, the school food market and emergency pantry are back for the 2021 school year. On average, the food bank feeds 6,500 families within LPS during the month through these programs.

“Being hungry makes everything harder. It’s harder to sleep it’s harder to care for your health. It’s harder to maintain focus,” said Kumke.

The backpack distribution sends kids home with a bag of food meant to last them for the weekend. The school food markets allow parents and kids to come in and shop a variety of products, which is meant to last several meals. The emergency pantry is stocked with staple items. Families can visit that pantry twice a month.

Being in person and providing these programs, however, depends on COVID cases in the community.

“We want to ensure we’re doing our part to get food to children,” said Kumke. “We’re really asking people to follow the guidelines set in place so we can continue to get meals and operate these programs. We really missed out last year, we continue to get food to children and families, but these are the most efficient and effective ways to get assure that we are getting food to children.”

The bags being packed at the food bank’s distribution center on Tuesday were done by LPS’ Independence Academy. It’s a transition program for adults 18 to 21 to learn job skills.

“We pack for distribution sites, the bags for distribution sites. We’ll help with the backpack program. We pack food markets for the 16 area counties we do,” said Kevin James, the site teacher. “It’s a win-win for all.”

Volunteers like the students with the Independence Academy are critical to providing this food. Monetary donations are essential, too. It costs $100 to feed a child for a year through the school market, and it costs $250 to feed a child for a year through the backpack program.

Furthermore, there are 16,000 people in the Food Bank’s 16-county service area that are facing food insecurity.

“Generosity really comes into play,” said Kumke. “It’s expensive, but it’s worthwhile.”

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