Local program provides snacks to children in need

By Tucker Henderson


As cold fall days arrive, hunger is a problem that many people are fortunate enough to avoid. There are, however, local children and parents that aren’t quite as fortunate and must battle hunger head on.

Backpacks for Hunger is a program that addresses the needs of many area youth who might need some subsistence during the weekend and evenings when school is not in session. 

When a teacher in the New York Mills School District feels that a student may not be getting enough to eat in their everyday life, they can fill out a form to be added to this program. Parents can also request it if they feel that it could benefit their family.

Students and families in the program are kept anonymous, even to the volunteers. There is no worry about privacy as the names are kept anonymous. Currently, there are 40 students in the program for this school year.

Starting in the fall, during each Friday as students are in class, a delivery of nonperishable foods and fruit is placed in the lockers of each student in the program. Students ages 18 and under are eligible for this program and those with siblings can get larger disbursements. 

Stephanie Von Ruden, financial supervisor of the program, said that a lot of their funding comes from grant money provided through United Way.

“The Lions have been a very generous sponsor for many years as well,” said Von Ruden.

A committee of local volunteers have kept the program going since its inception in 2009. 

Sarah Carlson heads up the deliveries and helps rally volunteers for each Friday. Local businesses including Farmers and Merchants Bank, Magnifi Financial, and Brunswick all contribute to the cause during the school year by delivering the backpacks and Mills Country Market organizes the fresh produce for the bags.

“It’s definitely a community effort,” said Von Ruden.

Von Ruden reminds community members that donations and volunteers are always being sought out and Thrivent Action gift cards are an acceptable donation for the Backpacks for Hunger program. 

Those who would like to donate their time to the program, email Von Ruden at StephV@fmbanknym.com.