Stephanie Bowman puts bags of groceries in the truck of her vehicle before delivering them. (Ernie Over photo)
(Lander, Wyo.) – On Wednesday afternoon this week, a group of volunteers gathered in the garage at the Lander Senior Citizens Center to pack bags of groceries for students who could go hungry over the weekend. The food is not just for the students, but for the student’s families as well. It’s called the “backpack program.”
On this particular week, the six volunteers prepared 28 bags of foodstuffs, enough to feed the 115 people in those families.
“The number varies each week, but this is pretty typical,” said coordinator Stephanie Bowman, who alternates weeks with Stephanie Harris on getting the groceries packed and delivered to the student’s schools. “We purchase the food from our two local stores and receive some from the Rocky Mountain Food Bank, which also supplies the Care and Share Food Bank. We like to support local.
Bowman said this week’s bag of groceries included oatmeal, rice side dishes, macaroni and beef plus canned fruit, chicken, and corn and some potatoes. “Next week we’ll have cereal and powdered milk, for instance. We try to vary the bag from week to week.”
Students eligible for the program also receive the free and reduced lunch program during weekdays at their schools, but on weekends “the kids could go hungry if we didn’t do this.”
The five volunteers at Wednesday’s bagging session came from Faith Lutheran Church in Lander. “We get volunteers from churches and such to help. It doesn’t take long once we get started.” On Wednesday, the bags had been packed and were on their way for delivery in just about 15 minutes.
Bowman said the program used to be partially funded with a grant, but that it went away this year. The program survives, however, on the generosity of individuals and churches who make donations or take up collections for the food purchases.