What many people may consider a simple snack can mean the difference between a high school student having food on the weekend or going hungry.
This notion is what kick-started a new weekend backpack program, the brainchild of two Independence High School counselors who saw a need to send the school’s students home with food over the weekend.
IHS social worker Shanae Satriana said she had an idea to offer the kids a few snacks in drawstring backpack over a three-day weekend after they began asking her for food every day.
“My biggest thing was in order to get the students to talk, they had to feel comfortable, and food is comfortable,” she said. “So I just started packing my office shelves with snacks.”
At first, the snacks were just meant for the students Satriana was counseling so they could have something to eat during a session.
“Word got around the school that I had snacks,” she said. “So now everybody in the school was coming to me for snacks, and I found myself constantly filling my shelves. I was feeding kids pretty much all day, and they weren’t just asking for a snack but an actual meal.”
Luckily, Satriana and Counselor Jennifer Cook made an alliance with Rio Rancho Presbyterian Church after having a meeting about the needs of the school.
“They were able to raise over $600 for the students at Independence so we could purchase snacks,” she said. “The next thing we discussed was doing a weekend backpack program.”
After a three-day weekend, which was the program’s initial trial run, Satriana and Cook have been able to keep the program going every weekend since February.
“We just packed simple things in the bags, like ramen noodles, apple sauce and granola bars, things that wouldn’t spoil and were cost-effective on our part,” Satriana said.
They conducted a counseling survey, which asked IHS students if they received a backpack and felt it was beneficial. Counselors said 80 percent of the students answered yes.
“We thought now it would be a good time to reach out to the community and ask for its help to continue helping these kids, many of which are in a hard spot, receive food for the weekend to help them survive,” Satriana said.
They counselors have provided a backpack to each student, which comes out to 130 care packages each weekend.
Satriana said it costs about $2 to fill one bag.
“We decided not to just focus on students that we thought were in need; we didn’t think we could really know that, so we just give them to everyone,” Cook said.
Some ideas for donations consist of:
Single-serve peanut-butter cups
Rice Krispy treats
Cups of soup
Individual hot chocolate, lemonade and tea packs
For information on how to help continue this program, contact Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 338-4658, ext. 53834.