Sandpoint, Idaho – When the non-profit Food for Our Children started its first program in 2015 it homed in on one specific problem: hungry children in school. The program recently received an Avista Foundation grant.
Today, Food For Our Children provides 14,000 weekend food bags every school year to children in elementary schools, and Head Start programs in Bonner County.
“That’s a lot of food,” said Michelle Murphree, who’s on the board of FFOC.
The organization estimates that more than 15 percent of Bonner Country children are food insecure, meaning they don't know if there is any food when they come home from school.
The weekend food bags contain two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners, and they are intended to bridge the food gap some children experience over the weekend when they don't have access to free meals at school.
“Everything has to be shelf-stable for a long time, and it can’t require any preparation at all,” she added. “We find that many of the children are home alone so everything has to be ready to eat.”
Small packs of pasta meals and stews are popular and so are squeeze packs of fruit, and of course cereal.
During the COVID shutdown, it became very difficult for FFOC to find shelf-stable milk.
“We always have the cereal but not always milk,” Murphree said.
The bags are packed at Second Harvest Foodbank in Spokane, where volunteers from FFOC pick them up and transport them to Sandpoint.
Murphree said FFOC works out of the Bonner County Community Food Center and is completely run by volunteers.
“We have no paid director or office or anything,” Murphree said. “Every dime that we raise goes directly toward buying food.”
A newer FFOC program aims to provide mid-morning snacks in elementary schools.
Murphree said teachers were buying snacks for students who typically get hungry around 10:30 a.m.
“They were seeing a lot of behavioral issues because the kids are just tapped out,” Murphree said. “We decided to try and provide mid-morning snacks, too, and it’s going pretty well.”
FFOC works with a school nutritionist to make sure that the snack is nutritious and fulfills school food requirements.
“I think another benefit of this program is that it reminds people that kids do go hungry here,” Murphree said. “It may be hard to believe, but childhood hunger is a problem in Sandpoint just like it is everywhere else.”
At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.