For the second year in a row, Minden Elementary School counselor Mary Garcia has teamed up with parents to send backpacks full of food home with disadvantaged students.
"At the end of last year, we had 17 students participating in our Backpack Buddies program," said Garcia. "This year, we have 23 students."
Parents Ginger Easley and Michelle Tems were in Minden Elementary's storage room on May 22 packing soup, tuna, macaroni and cheese, fruit, cereal and hot chocolate, among other things, into selected backpacks.
"I believe that students can't learn when their tummies are empty," said Easley.
Easley said she and other parents spend one morning each week doing the work.
"You need willing bodies for a project this size," she said.
Easley said parents donate about $300 a week for groceries.
"We rotate between grocery stores," she said.
Easley said many stores make their own donations.
"We just had an incredible donation through Sierra Nevada Trading Company from one of their distributors," she said. "About $600 worth of groceries."
Easley said the backpacks are sent home with the students' bus drivers, who ensure no one else eats the contents.
Garcia said the backpack program enhances the school's learning environment.
"This guarantees students have nutritious food, even through the weekend," said Garcia. "We have actually seen an increase in student attendance as a result of this.
With gas and food prices on the rise, families are very appreciative of this extra support. One mother told me her kids wouldn't have had a lunch for their field trip if it weren't for the Backpack Buddies program."