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Highland Students Help Backpack Buddies

Highland Students Help Backpack Buddies

Highland Community College students and staff were introduced to services for those less fortunate at they helped compile food for the Backpack Buddies program that is part of Second Harvest in St. Joseph.  English tutor Randa Arnett chronicled it this way,  “Boxes on pallets, boxes on boxes, boxes in shrink wrap; we stared up at stacks of boxes as we walked by more boxes. We climbed stairs to a second floor landing until we were looking down on boxes and finally took our places beside a long table on which there was a line of more boxes. Such was our introduction to the Backpack Buddies assembly line in the Second Harvest food warehouse.”

The journey through the boxes occurred on in mid-April as ten HCC students joined Arnett and participated in a community service project sponsored by Student Support Services (SSS) program at the College. SSS is a federally funded Trio program which serves the purpose of increasing the retention and graduation rates of participants and helping students transition from one level of education to the next.  Through the use of personal advising, life planning, and career exploration, the program strives to facilitate student success both in and out of the classroom.  Students are asked to participate in one community service project per semester, and this was the first time SSS has been involved with Backpack Buddies. Students spent two hours filling plastic bags with food items to be distributed to local children for their weekend meals through Backpack Buddies.

The Backpack Buddies program began in 2001 and its purpose is to provide nutritious food for children who do not have meals provided for them at home over the weekends. Backpack Buddies serves 3200 children from fifty different schools and seventeen counties, including thirty children in the Doniphan West school district. Weekend meals are provided throughout the school year and all food is purchased through donations by businesses and individuals. The cost per child is $150 per school term.

After a brief introduction and some pertinent instructions by Matt Daniel, the Backpack Buddies program coordinator, students fell into sync, dropping items into a bag, placing ten filled bags into a box, and stacking the filled boxes on a pallet for a total of 250 meals per pallet. Each meal included two boxes of milk, one box of juice, a small can of fruit and a can of vegetables, one packet each of cereal, dried fruit, pretzel mix, and a container of spaghetti. The eight students on the line, Diana Pratt (Leonardville), Deondre Harris (Atchison), Emily Tharp (Hiawatha), Kacy Krull (Faucett, MO), Ashley Willey (Morrill), Krystal Corhn (Topeka), and Jaaron Kassanavoid (Lawson, MO) maintained a brisk pace which kept the other two students, Ashley Dunn (Denison) and Jake Douglas (Highland) hustling to keep the supply boxes filled. Student enthusiasm and energy made the time pass quickly, and all of the volunteers seemed to enjoy the task at hand.  Arnett notes that the group “left the warehouse with a sense of involvement knowing that 500 more weekend meals were ready to go to youngsters who need them.”

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