IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - For students who live with food insecurity, winter break means going hungry.
"Food insecurity is a huge reality for our kids here, about 80% of our kids are on free and reduced lunch so they really depend on that breakfast and lunch every day," said Hawthorne Elementary principal, Katie Francis.
Francis, along with others from United Way, and Justserve.org, decided to come up with a game plan to help students in need during the 16-day winter break.
"We see a lot of behaviors increase and our kids get kind of nervous this time when they know they're going to be gone from school for so long. Just because of that insecurity and the unknown of kind of where things are. Where's my next meal going to come from or where am I going to sleep tonight," said Francis.
With hundreds of boxed food donations from the community, donated backpacks and eager to help volunteers, one hundred backpacks were prepared with eight days worth of food inside.
For Just Serve volunteer Brent Belnap, the project reminded him of the importance of serving.
"Helps us focus on truly what's important, our fellow man, our brothers, and sisters in the community. And if we each do just a little bit, then it makes the whole community a whole lot better," Belnap said.
All of the food items are things that require no cooking or minimal preparation.
"This is just the beginning of what we're really trying to start," said Francis who says the school is converting a basement area into a community closet filled with food, clothing, hygiene products, and school supplies.
My goal is that every kid every weekend, not just on breaks, but breaks would obviously be included, that they could go home every weekend with a backpack of food," Francis said.
The school performed the project previously on a smaller scale during the Thanksgiving holiday with twenty-six backpacks with items donated by United Way.
For more opportunities to serve with Just Serve around the community, click here.