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A new effort in Springfield is aimed at reducing the number of kids who go hungry on the weekend. Michele Skalicky has more.
Too many children in Springfield live in poverty and don't get the nutrition they need. That's why Female Leaders in Philanthropy or FLIP, a United Way of the Ozarks initiative, is working with Ozarks Food Harvest and Springfield Public Schools to help them expand their weekend backpack feeding program.
Bart Brown, director of Ozarks Food Harvest, says the way the program works is they provide schools with supplies of nonperishable food items. "The items are packaged in such a way the kids can get into them without adult supervision, and our staff nutritionist has come up with a way to get 3 square meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner for Saturday and Sunday plus some toiletry items into these backpacks."
Brown says more than 40% of children in the Springfield Public School District are eligible for free or reduced lunches.
"There are kids in Springfield who use this as their sole source of nutrition for the weekend."
Each participating school decides which kids need the weekend backpack feeding program. The program started in Springfield 2 years ago at Boyd Elementary. It's currently in 5 elementary schools and will be expanded to one more next year. FLIP's goal is to have the backpack program in a total of 10 schools over the next 3 years.
Dr. Nancy O'Reilly is chair of FLIP. She says they've identified 20 major business they'll go to for help in funding their project.
"We're pledging over the next 3 years $45,000, and then we've also created a $30,000 endowment program, which will continue to grow. But basically what we're going to do is raise $210,000. We want all the schools funded that we've talked about today, and we want a commitment of 3 years for every school."
FLIP has partnered with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and has received its first grant of $7,000, which will fund the weekend backpack feeding program for one school for a year.
For more information, call the United Way of the Ozarks at 863-7700.