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In the Know: When school ends, hunger begins

Volunteers help prepare items for distribution at a United Way food drop. (Contributed) 1 / 2
Boxes of food items distributed by the United Way are ready to be picked up. (Contributed)2 / 2

Summer is finally here and there are so many wonderful things to look forward to and enjoy. Kids are out of school and families are planning for the numerous ways that they will enjoy their summer vacation.

We live in a beautiful lakes community and there are many things to do over the summer months. From boating, fishing and swimming to hiking, biking and camping, there is no limit to the fun that families can have! Planning for these activities requires packing the necessary items such as water toys, fishing and safety equipment, camp chairs and of course, food! Whether it is a picnic lunch for the boat or park, burgers and brats for the grill or campfire food for roasting, the food we prepare and take are part of the memories we make.

For some families, the summer months won't include packing picnics or making s'mores. Some families will be stretching their dollars to ensure that there is enough food to put on the table for those additional meals for children who are now home every day of the week. When school is in session, breakfast and lunch is provided five days of the week, which means that children will not go hungry. In addition, weekend bags of food are provided to students through the United Way Backpack Attack program.

According to the most recent data from the free and reduced price lunch eligible students across Douglas and Pope counties ranges from 30 percent to 59 percent with the state average at approximately 40 percent. This data highlights the importance of ensuring that these children and their families continue to be supported over the summer months by programs that provide food.

In the absence of school meals over the next few months, United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties has launched a Fight Summer Hunger campaign, because when school ends, unger begins.

Our mission with this campaign is to raise dollars to fight summer hunger in Douglas and Pope counties. We plan to do this by funding Backpack Attack in participating schools' summer programs and by funding two food drops in each county.

Backpack Attack is a Community Impact Program of United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. This program provides bags of supplemental food to students in need through participating schools. The program is confidential and voluntary for those receiving food bags. During the 2017-18 school year, approximately 500 students were served in both counties on a weekly basis through this program. Each Backpack Attack bag costs around $5 and includes breakfast items, entrees, canned fruit, snack items, juice and shelf stable milk.

Mobile food drops are Community Impact Programs that are offered on a monthly basis to support families facing food scarcity. One is held at New Life Christian Church in Douglas County and the other is held at Glenwood United Parish in Pope County. Attendees register, then go through a line where they are able to receive an assortment of food, free of charge. The Douglas County Mobile Food Drop serves an average of 150-200 households each month and the Pope County Mobile Food Drop serves an average of 75-100 households each month with approximately 70-100 pounds of food provided per household.

United Way Backpack Attack and food drops are supported by donations from businesses, organizations and individual community members. You can help by raising awareness about these programs and hunger in our community or by choosing to make a donation. There are also opportunities to volunteer within each of these programs.

Please join United Way in a campaign to share our message and make impact on summer hunger by:

• Donating to support the cause by texting "FIGHT" to 30306.

• Becoming a fundraiser to help us meet our goal by texting "FIGHT" to 30306.

• Having a collection jar and/or table tents at your business to raise support.

• Liking or sharing our Facebook page to raise awareness.

Our webpage highlights our overarching goal of $10,000. Every dollar makes a difference when $5 feeds a child for the weekend and $20 feeds a family through the monthly food drop.

Thank you for helping us to fight hunger! We are so fortunate to live in such a generous community that cares for those who need our support!

For more information, contact our office at 320-834-7800 or visit

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Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.