Jun 21, 2017 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterBeginning this fall, Arapahoe students will go home from school every Friday with a backpack filled with food, thanks to a grant from the First Nations Development Institute.
Fremont County School District 38 board members and administrators identified the need to continue feeding their students well after school hours, said Pat Moss, the district's federal programs director.
Moss found the grant opportunity and, with support from the school district and superintendent Kenneth Crowson, submitted an application for $15,000 in funding.
"It was a concern from our school leadership in making sure (students) have a meal" on weekends, Moss said. "Sometimes they don't."
School staff members are aware of students who go home for the weekend and don't have full meals to eat until they return to classes Monday morning, Moss said. With the grant, Moss said the district is targeting a population of students who live in a poverty-driven community and low-income households.
"There's always a concern on if our children are eating the way they should eat," Crowson said. "Is there food at home?"
The board's focus is to create food opportunities that are available to all students.
"We're continuously looking for ways to provide those basic needs for our kids," he added.
It's proven that when students are eating well their academic success can increase drastically, he said.
First Nations, a nonprofit organization, extends the grant opportunity each year to organizations that share the same focus of making healthy food accessible to American Indian children and families. First Nations seeks grant funding to then provides money to American Indian communities in the United States.
The money is appropriated through the Nourishing Native Foods and Health program. The school district will have until Jan. 31, 2018, to spend the funds. Moss said the school board can also consider extending the backpack program through the entire school year by using supplemental funds from the district's general fund.
"This is a start for the board's focus in getting this under way," Moss said.
The program can also be supplemented with vegetables from their green house, Moss said.
"I want this to be student-driven," he said.
Staff and parents will have the opportunity to volunteer and fill backpacks, and activity that could boost parent involvement as well.
Food made through the Charlie Cart program can also become part of the backpack initiative, he added. The district was recently awarded the Charlie Cart program, which involves a mobile kitchen cart equipped with more than 60 items that teachers use to guide students in cooking healthy meals.
A provision of the grant was for a nonprofit-to-nonprofit connection. Blue Mountain Associates, a Wind River Indian Reservation nonprofit group that focuses on expanding and improving the local community food system, has agreed to assist the school district with the grant.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the district that roughly $33,000 in grant funding had been approved for the Farm to School program, which helps connect schools with local farmers and their foods. Students will also be educated by local growers about their operations. The school district applied for the grant with the support of the local University of Wyoming Extension program.
Crowson said the school district was also approved for federal funding to provide breakfast and lunch for Arapahoe students and all others in Fremont County during the summer.
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