The thought of having lunch is often taken for granted. And it's hard to imagine that a child might not have a midday meal each day. But for some kids, that's a reality.
Principal Erik Mason of Emerald Elementary School in Manistique says it's a nationwide problem that many children do not get adequate nutrition or meals when they're not in school. "People work on a daily basis, and their food pantries aren't always full. So, sometimes that nutritional value of food tends to get lost in the pantries or in the cupboards at home," said Mason.
Mason says he was contacted by members of the community to find out how they could help children who may be going hungry on the weekends.
One youngster had an idea.
"I saw this commercial about hungry people in foreign countries. And I thought, are there hungry people in my community? And that's basically how I came up with the backpack program," said Anna VanDyck, a student at Manistique Middle and High School.
Anna and her father, Joseph, and mother, Jenny, started the Butterfly Backpack program at Emerald Elementary School in Manistique. They fill backpacks with nutritious, easy to prepare meals that children can take home over the weekend and prepare themselves.
They also receive help from organizations such as Mom To Mom and Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU), a student group at Manistique Middle and High School.
Jospeh VanDyck says they follow federal nutrional guidelines when deciding what types of food to put into the backpacks.
Principal Mason says school teachers confidentially located familes they thought might be interested in the program. All recipients of the backpacks are anonymous.
The VanDycks will hold a food drive Saturday, May 11, which is also Stamp Out Hunger Day.
If you would like to donate food, backpacks or make a monetary donation to the Butterfly Backpack program, call (906) 450-8340.