Expansion of BackPack program underscores hunger problem

2013-02-12T10:26:00Z 2013-02-12T12:00:23Z Expansion of BackPack program underscores hunger problemby Dennis Buckley / Neighborhood Extra editor JournalStar.com

The hunger problem in southeast Nebraska is not confined to what are generally regarded as low-income neighborhoods.

Folks are surprised to discover that the schools served by the Food Bank of Lincoln's popular BackPack Program include Hill, Zeman, Sheridan, and Beattie elementary -- located in areas not usually labeled as low-income neighborhoods.

"Hunger is a widespread problem," Food Bank development director John Mabry told the Lincoln South Rotary Club at its Feb. 1 meeting. "We're now reaching hungry children in areas that may surprise some people."

More than 3,500 backpacks filled with nutritious food are assembled and sent home with children every Friday afternoon.

Growth of the Food Bank's assistance is also reaching other age groups:

- "Food markets" have been established to help hungry high school students at Lincoln High and North Star, helping 250 students at each high school.

- A new mobile distribution schedule started early this month at the Veterans Administration facilities in Lincoln.

The big-picture objective is to reach the 51,000 "food-insecure" Nebraskans identified by the Food Bank in its 16-county service area in southeast Nebraska.

Among the key items for which there seems to be a constant need: diapers and peanut butter.

Mabry said that while food donations are always needed and welcome, the Food Bak gets the greatest mileage from the donated dollar. Through its partnerships, the Food Bank is able to convert each donated dollar into the purchase of $5 of food.

The biggest partners of the Food Bank are the Center for People in Need, Good Neighbor Community Center, Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach, People's City Miwssion, and the Salvation Army Community Center.

Every donation to the Food Bank is both needed and appreciated, Mabry told Lincoln South Rotary, which donated $225 and over 200 pounds of food on Feb. 1 -- part of a districtwide Rotary food drive typically held during the week leading up to Super Bowl weekend.

Mabry added that the Food Bank fell just short of its goal of 9 million pounds of donated food in 2012. "We fell just 9,000 pounds short of 9 million. We were on schedule until we got hit by the snow day just prior to Christmas."

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