Many children in need qualify for free or reduced lunch Monday through Friday. Isabella County and the Community Compassion Network have created a Nutrition Club to provide food to elementary students on the weekends.
The Nutrition Club was created in 2012 in order to find a way to provide elementary students who qualify for school lunch programs during the week, to receive lunch on the weekends.
Sarah Gilbert, the Executive Director for the Community Compassion Network said there’s a hunger issue in Isabella County and this is a way to reach students and feed them on the weekends. “Starting last December we began sending home a bag with kindergarten thru 6th grade students whose parents enrolled them and the bag had two breakfasts, two lunches and snacks and fruit in it.”
Breakfasts could be boxes of cereal, granola bars or toaster pastries. Lunches could be macaroni and cheese or beef stew.
Last year the Nutrition Club served about 200 students in Mount Pleasant schools. Currently the program is feeding 500 elementary students in Isabella County. That includes the five Mount Pleasant elementary schools, the Beal City elementary and Renaissance Public school academy elementary.
“All of the research says that kids brains are in an important stage of development and proper nutrition enhances learning.” Said Gilbert. “ And we know many of our students that our in our free and reduced lunch program get breakfast and lunch at school. But sometimes on the weekends they might not have food available at home. And this is a way that kids are ready to be better learners.”
The food being provided comes from the Greater Lansing Food Bank which is a member of Feeding America. Which means they’re able to get food for cents on the pound. The food is then delivered to the Community Compassion Network in Mount Pleasant.
Every other week volunteers like Grace Mease help pack the lunches. Grace was there helping out with her Girl Scout troop.
“We’re giving them to people who don’t have food and they don’t have money.” Said Grace, “and we’re packing them in bags for all the schools.”
Volunteers come from all areas of the community.
Sarah Gilbert with Community Compassion Network, said we’ve had the Isabella County retired school personnel come and pack bags. “And, many of those are folks who taught in Isabella County and know about the issue of kids and hunger.”
In one year the Nutrition Club volunteers have increased as well as the community support financial.
According to Gilbert, it’s important to remember that none of these programs exist without the generosity of the people in the Isabella County area. “Because we would not be able to do it otherwise. So that’s really a critical, critical piece in what Community Compassion Network does. We have a community that believes it’s important to give back, and they do. Generously.”
Gilbert went on to say how kids are the future and they need to be provided for in the best possible way.
Currently the Nutrition Club is talking to Weidman elementary about adopting the program. The club is also looking to expand to Winn elementary and Shepherd elementary. From there the club plans on expanding it to the middle school students in Mount Pleasant.
The club is always looking for ways to move the program forward and generate more funding. The goal is to make sure it is a sustainable program that carries over the long term.