LONG BEACH — The volunteers behind the Food4Kids Peninsula program have a vision: no more hungry children.
The program, which provides healthy food to Ocean Beach School District students in need, is looking for volunteers and donations for the 2018-19 school year. Volunteers help pack and deliver the backpacks full of food.
The program’s first meeting is at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Long Beach Elks Lodge, 110 Pacific Avenue N. Meetings occur at the same time and location every Thursday.
Each Friday, students enrolled in the program receive a backpack filled with healthy food. The weekend backpacks serve as a way for students to shorten the time between students eating nutritious meals. Students return backpacks on Mondays so they can be restocked weekly.
Peninsula programs unite
The program started in 2011 at Ocean Park Elementary School and was soon followed by a program at Long Beach Elementary School.
Last year, Ocean Park program coordinators worked to match the Long Beach program. This year marks the first that the two programs will be combined to collectively serve students on the Peninsula. The Peninsula program is one of several throughout the country.
Because the two programs are combining to be one, volunteers are facing the logistical issue of transporting backpacks to and from Ocean Park, volunteer Cat Shaver said. The Ocean Park program has less than 10 volunteers, a number coordinators hope to see increase.
“It’s a lot to depend on a few people,” Cat Shaver said. “Those kids need to be fed throughout the year and it’s a long year.”
The group prepares almost 200 backpacks for students in grades pre-K through grade 12 each week.
“Children are our future, we don’t need to have hungry children in the United States,” Cat Shaver said. “One in four kids are hungry on the Peninsula and several homeless students need support.”
About 270 students on the Peninsula are technically homeless, according to a recent study by the Pacific County Economic Development Council. (Homeless in this context often means living with no fixed address, or living doubled up with friends or relatives.) About 57 percent of students in the Ocean Beach School District qualify for free or reduced price meals, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
How to help
Single-serving food items and cash donations are welcomed by the program, which is funded through community donations.
Providing food to the students typically costs the program at least $500 a week. Program coordinators have already spent about $1700 to prepare for the start of the school year, volunteer Larry Shaver said.
All students who qualify for free or reduced lunch can participate in the program, Larry Shaver said. Parents interested in whether their family qualifies for the program should contact their school staff. Program participation is kept confidential.
Donations can be brought or sent to the Elks Lodge and Ocean Park United Methodist Church. Donation barrels are also located at Okie’s Thriftway Market and Sid’s IGA. Checks should include the memo line “Food4Kids.”
Suggested food donations include juice, hot chocolate, cold cereal, oatmeal, granola/breakfast bars, peanut butter, jelly, tuna, shelf stable milk, fruit cups, applesauce, pudding, canned fruit, canned soup, chili, ravioli, Spaghettios, macaroni, ramen, fruit snacks and crackers.
“It’s all healthy foods, not sugary snacks,” Larry Shaver said. “In case parents work on the weekends, the kids can prepare the food provided.”
Produce is provided in addition to the shelf-stable items donated to and purchased by the program.
People interested in donating or volunteering can call Ada Clayton at 360-749-2606; Allison Dornes at 503-407-4364; Cat and Larry Shaver at 360-244-5590; or Elly Rosaire at 360-214-0000.
“We all need to work together,” Larry Shaver said. “We need to support our children.”