Food 4 Kids Program Approved for LCO Ojibwe School
By Joe Morey
On Monday, Feb. 24, the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) approved donating $5,000 to the Hayward Community Food Shelf (HCFS) to sponsor the start-up of the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program at the LCO Ojibwe School. The funds will support 90 students bringing home weekend meals for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Jessica “Hutch” Hutchinson, LCO Ojibwe School Director, said to fund the program for nine weeks at LCO, they would need $4,000. TGB member Tweed Shuman proposed giving $5,000 because the governing board hasn’t supported the food shelf in the past and they do a great service for the entire community.
Hutch said it’s overwhelming the size and scope of the food shelf program and their facility in Hayward. She explained the school wanted the program in the past but there were many regulations that stalled them beginning sooner.
Hutch explained the school doesn’t have funds to cover all the students of the school which now has an enrollment of 304. She explained they chose the 90 students based on whether they were homeless and living with relatives or in foster placement, kids without fixed addresses. In Hayward, parents opt-in for the weekend meals, Hutch added.
“This will be a test run and maybe next year we can expand the program to include more students,” Hutch noted. She said school staff will pick up the food packages at the food shelf and that parents will also be notified and asked to sign off on receiving the meals.
Laurie Kennedy, Food4Kids Coordinator, explained that every meal has two lunches with an entrée, vegetable, fruit, and a breakfast and snacks. She said they make sure it’s not too heavy and little kids can carry the package, or fit right into their backpack.
“We have it down to a beautiful science,” Kennedy said. “We have a lot of fantastic volunteers.”
When asked why the HCFS needs the funds if the program is all-volunteer and they get food donated, HCFS Chairperson Barb Schweig explained the food shelf in Hayward gives out over 300,000 pounds of food annually and they receive only 100,000 pounds worth of donations.
“We do grant writing but we rely mostly on donations from the community and great civic groups like yourselves,” Schweig stated.
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Beaudin said the TGB will want to revisit this prior to the next school year to make sure they are servicing all LCO kids who want to participate in the program, “Even if we have to budget for it.”
The Food 4 Kids program currently serves two schools in Sawyer County, the Hayward Community School District and St. Francis Mission.
According to Schweig, HCFS has operated the Food 4 Kids Program since the fall of 2010.
“During that time, we've provided weekend food to hundreds of children in the Hayward School District and the St. Francis Mission School. We've considered including the LCO Schools in the program many times but have never been able to for a variety of reasons,” Schweig explained. “One of the stumbling blocks before was that we simply didn’t have enough space to keep the inventory required to feed an extra 100+ kids. Our new building eliminates that as a concern now.”
The Food 4 Kids Backpack Program provides weekend food packages to elementary school students from low-income households who are at risk of hunger over the weekend when free school meals are unavailable.
From L-R) LCO Ojibwe School Director Jessica Hutchinson, HCFS Chairperson Barb Schweig and Food 4 Kids Coordinator Laurie Kennedy.