More than 27% of children in Gunnison County qualify for Free and Reduced-Priced Meals. During the school year, meals are available to students at school. But many children come to school without snacks to get them through the day. Even more students still are unsure where their meals will come from during the 64 hours between leaving school on Friday and returning to school on Monday morning. That’s where Healthy Snacks and Gunni-Packs comes in.
Healthy Snacks: Feeding Bodies, Fueling Minds contains enough food for a family of four to eat for three days. The approximate value of a family-size box is $20 and a box weighs 14 lbs. It contains items such as peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, meaty soups, canned fruit, instant dry milk, and oatmeal.
Gunni-Packs – Food for the Weekend contains enough food for one person for three days. The approximate value is $10 and weighs 7 lb. Food in this box does not require cooking and can be prepared with hot water.
During the school year, Gunnison Country Food Pantry Provides 5,000 snacks per month to children facing hunger through a partnership with the following organizations: the Gunnison Watershed School District, Gunnison Public Library, C.A.F.E Multicultural Resource Center, Gunnison Valley Mentors, and the Hispanic Leadership Council.
During the summer, Gunnison Country Food Pantry provides healthy snacks to children experiencing food insecurity through six delivery systems: Señorita’s Rita’ Rockin’ Reading Buses (2,000 snacks), Gunnison Valley Mentors’ MyDay Friday program (500), Gunnison Library’s children’s programs (900), Gunnison Watershed School District’s Summer Experience (3,500), and the Pantry’s Snack Bags (9,000).
Numerous studies confirm what every parent and teacher knows: children learn better and act better when they feel better. Health depends on adequate sleep, exercise, and nutritious food. One of the leading causes of childhood obesity is unhealthy eating habits. By putting healthy snacks within reach of children facing hunger, the Gunnison County community is improving the health of its children. The snacks purchased for the Healthy Snacks program are rated by FOODUCATE as Good, Above Average, or Average. Nothing rated Below Average is purchased for children.
The Backpack Model
The equivalent of a backpack program (that term is copyrighted by North Iowa Food Bank) was started by Sally Hensley at Crested Butte Community School. Sally launched her effort with a notice to parents in the Crested Butte Community School Weekly Bulletin on January 26, 2015. Unofficially, we have heard five children are receiving food for the weekend through this effort.
Last spring a group of independent concerned citizens began discussing the possibility of offering a similar program in Gunnison. Their program is titled Gunni-Packs. Members of the Gunni-Pack Gang are Kevin Ferguson, Todd Huckabee, Spencer Winegar, Chris Bruggeman, Katie Dix, and Rachel Woelk. The group has worked this fall with Kelly Woodford to formulate an approved letter to parents explaining their intent. Information was distributed during the first week of January to sixth-grade students at Gunnison Middle School. The week of Jan 15, the first two Gunni-Packs were sent home. The week of Jan 22, four Gunni-Packs were sent home. The following week, five Gunni-Packs went out. The Gang’s plan is to start small, get the process working, and then expand the effort to students in other grades. They predict that it won’t take long for many families to ask for food assistance for their children. The effort will operate under the auspices of Todd and Bonnie Huckabee’s 501(c)(3) foundation and will partner with Gunnison Country Food Pantry as well as other individuals and organizations to acquire food. Additional funding sources will be sought when a process is established and the actual need has been identified. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Psalms 82.3 Ministries. Please include “Gunni-Packs” in the memo line and mail to 480 Red Tail Lane, Gunnison CO 81230.