Volunteers with Luverne’s Backpack Program Carol McDonald (left), Shirley Klosterbuer, Lona Klosterbuer and Rhonna Jarchow (not pictured) sort through food boxes last week at the program’s downtown storage room for food items that are distributed at the middle/high school.Luverne Backpack Program volunteer Lona Klosterbuer packs a box of applesauce cups in the minivan for transport last week to the middle/high school. Last year 206 preschool through twelfth-grade students received weekend meals.

Still going strong

Need and expenses increase as Luverne Backpack Program reaches 10-year milestone

Entering its 10th year, the Luverne Backpack Program is experiencing growing pains and needs renewed financial support from the community.

The program gives preschool through 12th-grade students foods they prepare and serve themselves each weekend during the school year. The volunteer-led organization provided food for 206 students during the 2016-17 school year.

“For some of these kids, this is what they are eating over the weekend,” said Lisa Dinger, Luverne Public School’s child guide and backpack program volunteer.

During weekdays, students are eligible for the district’s free-and-reduced meal program. The Luverne Backpack Program uses the same confidentiality and financial guidelines.

Student sign-up for this year’s distribution is currently taking place along with the committee preparing for its annual financial appeal.

Since the program began in 2007 through the suggestion and efforts of Carrie Soto, who continues to serve on the Backpack committee, expense per student has grown from an average of $120 to $150.

“That’s a $30,000-a-year price tag to run the program,” she said.

Because the program reaches all school-aged children this year, expenses are $5,000 to $6,000 more per year since the program started, Soto added.

The program will conduct its annual financial appeal in October and November. During this month, focus is on enrolling students into the food distribution program.

USDA officials reported in 2015 that 16.6 percent of households with children in the U.S. were classified as food insecure, often skipping meals due to the lack of funds.

The added expense of clothes and supplies for the new school year often taxes many families’ already tight food budgets, Dinger said.

Donations for the Backpack Program can be directed to the Luverne Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 623, 102 E. Main St., Luverne. Sponsorship for one student is $150 for the school year.

“Any amount will help,” Soto said.

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