Thirty children at Cooke Elementary School went home last Friday with a backpack full of food to prepare them to come back Monday morning focused and not hungry.
A group of around ten people gathered in the gym of Cooke Elementary for the first time on Thursday afternoon to fill plastic bags with many food items that might be taken for granted, but not for these children.
“Over 90 percent of students at Cooke are on free or reduced lunch aid,” club president junior Nakao Mauch said. This high number of children in need gave Blessings in a Backpack a school to start the meals at.
Blessings in a Backpack is a national organization and has started a chapter at Knox College due in part to Mauch and the help of Reverend David Parker and First Presbyterian Church.
“We are planning to open up more to the campus. We have had tons of help from the International Students Club and Ed Studies Club and a few other clubs like that,” Mauch said.
The organization has put together some fundraising events on campus last year and hopes to have more of them this year to maintain the funding needed.
The club, which was founded in January began feeding children for the first time last week after months of organizing and fundraising.
“We have been wanting to find another way that we can get involved in the community,” Rev. Parker said. “We do a lot of mission projects and this is one way we had hoped to help out.”
The program is able to feed a child for a whole year with just $80. This is possible due in part to the generosity of Hy-Vee.
“It helps the kids come to school on Monday ready to learn. They will have enough food in each of their backpacks to last throughout the weekend,” Mauch said.
With the help of the First Presbyterian Church, the club has been able to raise around $10,000. The money will allow them to expand to help more children, cover more schools and continue the program past the end of the school year.
During the first week, about half of the volunteers were from Knox and the other half from the church.
The church has put on a few different fundraisers including a pancake dinner at Applebee’s and has received $7,000 through a grant.
“We received a $7,000 grant and we were in hopes that if we had one hundred kids here, that was going to cost us about $8,000,” Rev. Parker said.
The grant will allow the organization to feed children for years to come, Parker and Mauch believe. This Friday, they hope to feed 32 children and expand in future weeks as their club grows and the word gets out to other children at the school.
The children receive a variety of food that normally their families may not be able to afford. While the group looks to see if the child is on the free or reduced lunch programs, they do not have any qualifications per se with who receives help from Blessings in a Backpack.
The club hosts meetings on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Roger Taylor Lounge.