Four community groups with much to be merry about met Dec. 4 at Calvary Church in Golden Valley. The group, volunteers from Calvary, Good Samaritan-Ambassador, and the Golden Valley and New Hope-Crystal-Robbinsdale Rotary clubs, were packing weekend meals for hungry children in Robbinsdale Area Schools.
The program, KidPack, is not a new concept, and it showed as the group deftly packed hundreds of meals in minutes. The pack was scheduled for an hour.
The cheery bustle may have had something to do with an $8,000 grant that had recently been awarded to the program via Rotary International. Members of both of the local clubs had previously assisted the packing in modest ways, delivering the meals and providing funds to get supplies from The Food Group in New Hope. With the grant, the clubs have been able to pledge a larger commitment to the program, which will grow as a result.
Rotary member Jim Benshoof said the Dec. 4 pack event was a “kick-off” of sorts for the new and improved KidPack program. Using the grant funds, an additional healthy food item will be included in every brown paper bag. The item will accompany six or so other foods, typically grain, cheese, meat and other protein products.
The School of Engineering and Arts (SEA) in Golden Valley, the last school in the Robbinsdale district not supported by the program, is now being served by the four groups. Around 60 students from the school are served.
Calvary has supported the KidPack program at Neill Elementary in Crystal since 2012. At its beginning, the program served 62 students. The program has grown significantly, serving 208 students at its peak in 2015.
At the closing of the 2018-19 school year, 140 Neill students received a KidPack bag every other Friday. SEA and Neill have similar enrollments, but the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches, a good marker to estimate those that will enroll in the program, are different. Last school year, 29% of SEA students and 64% of Neill students received free and reduced lunches.