Program feeds local kids


One local program is working to keep children from going hungry.

Goosetown Operation Backpack Program, in partnership with Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, provides supplementary weekend food for children who qualify.

Since its inception in September 2013, the number of students receiving supplementary weekend food backpacks has doubled.

The program started with 10 children, and by the end of the year, 24 children were receiving packs.

“At the beginning of the school year, we will add more children,” said Minda Davison, a program coordinator for the Goosetown Operation Backpack Program. “We’ll continue to add children into the program if there is a need and we can accommodate the need for students.”

The backpack program is focused on children who attend Mann Elementary. However, there are several backpack programs in other neighborhood areas.

“The work that the backpack program does is such an important program when a backpack program comes into a community,” Davison said. “It really helps bring to light education of people in the state of Iowa who are food insecure … this is one way to help provide meals for these children.”

Kirkwood, Twain, and Grant Wood elementary schools were the first schools to participate in the backpack program.

Of the 53 schools participating in the program, 12 are from Johnson County, with 281 students receiving food.

“It’s a critical element in the backpack program is a presence of a community partner; that would be a group of folks that provide a volunteer service,” said Greg Goodell, backpack program coordinator at HACAP. “Often, the funding and the manpower to do the logistics to make it work.”

Although the program only runs during the school year, Davison said, the program will continue to provide a number of students’ backpacks during the summer.

Twelve students attending summer school from July 6 to Aug. 8 will receive the backpacks.

“The school districts have other ways of providing and different free lunch meal sites,” Davison said. “So our hope is the children not coming to the summer program have access to those sites, and those who are at the summer program get the bags.”

The backpack program isn’t the only way students can get food.

The Iowa City School District partners with the Neighborhood Centers for Johnson County to provide breakfast, lunch, and snacks to children during the summer.

“It’s a great option for children in the summer,” said Alison Demory, the director of Nutrition Services for the School District.

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