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Volunteers attack hunger over the holidays

Jill Felling Swanstrom loads up a bag with various food items on Friday, Nov. 10. Volunteers helped pack 2,000 bags of food for 450 students across Douglas and Pope Counties, so that students in need would have food to take home over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)

For some students, Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks can be anxiety-inducing, as they may not know when or if they will have meals while at home.

But United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties is working to combat that issue. On Friday, Nov. 10, at an event organized by United Way, volunteers came together at Lakes Area Recreation to help pack 2,000 bags of food for 450 students across Douglas and Pope Counties.

The bags are going to students who receive weekly bags from Backpack Attack, a program where kids in need of nutritious food over the weekend are discreetly provided a kid-friendly snack placed in their backpack.

The bags packed Nov. 10 are intended for students to take home over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

"We are packing enough bags for every student who receives a Backpack Attack bag on the weekend to have two bags for each break," said Jen Jabas, United Way executive director. "In those two bags, there is enough food to supplement a whole week. ... It wouldn't include every meal, but it has a couple of entrees, a couple of breakfasts and snacks."

Gov. Mark Dayton declared Nov. 6-10 Minnesota Acts of Kindness Week for all United Ways, which was part of why the event was organized for Nov. 10.

"It's been really exciting because we're trying to bring awareness to ways people can engage and give back to their communities," Jabas said.

Various organizations, such as the Otto Bremer Trust, Henry's Foods, Hilltop Lumber, the Alexandria Area High School and Calvary Lutheran Church, were involved in the packing the bags.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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