The Oregon Trail Community Foundation recently awarded a $5,000 grant to the Cooperative Ministries Weekend Backpack Program.

The mission of the Cooperative Ministries Weekend Backpack Program is to provide nourishing, easy to use food items to the children and youth, during the school year, who are experiencing food insecurity. The program, known commonly as the Cat Pack and Pup Pack programs, provide food weekly to Scottsbluff and Gering students, ages 3 years old to seniors in high school.

According to information provided by the Cooperative Ministries Weekend Backpack Program, the progra is currently packing 225 packs weekly. One hundred fifty bags are going home in Scottsbluff Public Schools and 75 are going home in Gering Public Schools.

“As our communities’ demographics are changing, we are seeing an increased need to help kids stay fed over the weekends,” organizers Tray Steele and Missi Iasillo said in a press release. “During the week, these students are able to eat breakfast and lunch at school. Weekends become difficult and many come to school on Monday, unable to focus on school work.”

One hundred percent of the money that comes into the program goes straight to groceries. There are no overhead costs, and all of the program’s shopping is in turn done locally. Fresh Foods, Main Street Market and Wal-Mart work well with the programs to give the best price. Most weeks one backpack of food, with 15 food items, costs between $6-7. One week of food costs $1,400-$1,500. On long weekends, the program tries to send home a few extra items, to get kids by. Peanut butter is sent home once a month, but this cost is not part of the price per bag. The program is often fortunate to receive peanut butter donations from people in the community.

“We are so thankful for this generous community who keeps this program running,” Steele and Iassillo said. “All income comes from individual donations, donations from businesses or grants that have been funded. We could not run this program without the continued support. We are so humbled by the donations coming in and are so appreciative of the grants that we are receiving. Every part and amount helps and we are continually fundraising for the next year. We never want to be in this predicament again, and would like to have each year funded, before we start.”

The program thanked the Oregon Trail Foundation for this generous gift.

“We have tears in our eyes that your generous donation will feed the kids in these communities for three weeks. Thank you so much,” they said.

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