Peggy Reese is passionate about feeding hungry kids. Her backpack program, “Be Cool After School,” has grown beyond what she and her husband, Jim, could do alone. They started the program in 2010. The problem is she needs more backpacks, more volunteers, and more food.
This year, she said she sent out the call to see which schools need help. The schools want the help, but some of the volunteers aren’t returning. She said she can rely on the people who have helped for several years but could use more assistance.
“The need is real and growing,” Reese said. “For a long time, we just provided Logan City schools backpacks full of food for elementary students for the weekend,” Peggy said. “Now we do every elementary school in Logan City and a few in the county.”
She said they could use school, church and civic groups looking for service hours to help get the food packaged and ready.
“There are three schools that have a poverty level of 80 percent,” she continued.
Volunteers meet Wednesday mornings and fill clear plastic ziplock bags with food. The bags are then placed in backpacks and taken to the schools.
Peggy said there are still people in the valley who don’t recognize there is a hunger in Cache Valley. They want to blame it on parents being lazy.
“We have several refugee families from Burma, the Marshall Islands and other places,” she said. “Some of them are working three jobs trying to pay rent and feed and clothe their families.”
“Some of us are just one medical bill away from poverty,” Jim said. “Some parents lose their job and have no food. It is a bigger problem than most people think.”
Matt Whitaker, director of the Cache Community Food Pantry, said he has put an instructional video on the pantry’s Facebook page showing how to package the food for the backpacks.
Whitaker said the program is going great. The first couple of years were experimental, as the pantry tried to figure out how to do it. The last two years it has really come together.
“There are a lot of good people who volunteer and donate food and money to help us, help the kids,” Peggy explained. “There is a pretty good support system out there. When people donate food to the food pantry they can designate they want it to go to the backpack program.”
The school counselors and teachers are key, they bring the names to the pantry. They are the ones that know what is going on in the schools, Whittaker said.
To inquire about volunteering, or to participate, contact the Cache Community Food Pantry at (435) 753-7140.