LoShay sat outside of her fifth-grade classroom at Willow Park Elementary School in West Fargo talking about her family. Her eyes light up when telling stories about her twin 3-year-old sisters and how she looks after them. Her relationship with her 12-year-old brother is more of a rivalry.
With six members in the household, there appears to be few dull moments and a lot of energy.
After spending time talking about the dynamics inside of her active family, LoShay paused for a moment to reflect when she was asked if there is always enough food in their home to feed the large family. Her demeanor quickly changed.
LoShay is a part of the Great Plains Food Bank BackPack Program, which is a program designed to combat childhood hunger by providing a backpack full of meals, snacks, juice and milk to kids on the weekends. The backpack serves as a supplement to help keep them fed over the weekend before they return to school each Monday and again have access to school breakfasts and lunches.
After being asked if her family would have enough food if the backpack wasn’t available, LoShay paused before glancing out the window.
“It depends,” she said with a shrug of the shoulders.
In 2018 alone, the Great Plains Food Bank distributed nearly 120,000 backpacks throughout the state of North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota. This is in addition to work being done by the Great Plains Food Bank to provide 15 million pounds of food to more than 97,000 hungry individuals each year through a network of partner food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens and a number of different programs. It is a surprising fact to many that one in nine individuals across the state of North Dakota is food insecure and that 37 percent of those served each year are children.
LoShay is quick to state that she likes the variety of food in the backpack each week. She makes it a point to share its contents with her family members and indicates there is something each one of them enjoys.
“They’re really good and I like them a lot,” LoShay said about what she receives each week through the BackPack Program. “I like the granola bars. I eat them every time.”
Unfortunately, LoShay’s story is all too common and is at the forefront of a dedication by the Great Plains Food Bank to fight childhood hunger. In addition to its BackPack Program, the Great Plains Food Bank operates a Youth Summer Meals Program and School Pantry Program to help kids in need. The Youth Summer Meals Program provides a free lunch during the summer months at locations throughout North Dakota when the school lunch program is not available and the School Pantry Program is now placing food pantries directly inside of schools giving students and their families battling food insecurity even more access to what they need.
Each of the childhood hunger programs are among the fastest growing programs at the Great Plains Food Bank and the ability to operate each program is only possible through incredible donations supporting these efforts.
LoShay was asked one final question if she had anything to say to those supporting the BackPack Program.
“I would say thanks for taking the time out to pack the bags for us to eat every day,” she said. “I really like it and thank you.”