"More times than we know, the only meals that students are eating are those they receive at school,” said Lynn Baldus, principal at Saint Ansgar Middle and High School. “Weekends and breaks are tough on these kids. It’s is very hard for kids to learn when they are hungry.”
In Iowa, 1 in 7 children do not have enough to eat. And although school-based food-assistance programs for children from low-income families greatly aid the learning process, children may still suffer from food insecurity on weekends and holiday breaks.
“It’s not unheard of for teachers to reach into their own pockets to make sure students don’t go hungry,” explained Scott Cakerice, Principal at Saint Ansgar Elementary. “The teachers in our school have very giving souls. We care deeply about these kids.”
It’s school districts like St. Ansgar that inspire the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation and Iowa Select Farms to continue expanding hunger-relief efforts like Power Snack. Now in its eighth year, Power Snack has supported 1,160 at-risk students in Mitchell County with 55,680 ham sandwiches, a contribution valued at $37,120.
The coupons are distributed by school administrators, teachers, counselors and paras who identify children that would benefit from the program.
“These coupons could not have come at a better time,” said Lynn. “With a break coming up most kids are excited because they’re going to grandma’s house for a big meal or something like that, but the reality is that we also have a lot of kids sitting here thinking, ‘Okay, great. What am I going to eat on these days we don’t have school?’ and I really worry about them, I do.”
Power Snack is designed to give students the materials they need to make their own nutritious snacks, and feel empowered to shop for those ingredients on their own. Students receive coupons four times throughout the school year, typically right before extended holiday breaks like Thanksgiving.
“I wind up seeing kids in my office before breaks for behavioral issues,” Baldus explained. “But when we get to the root of the problem, we realize these kids are just so anxious, there is a panic they feel with school breaks. That’s why these coupons are so awesome of our kids. They will give them a sense of security knowing they will have something to eat when school is not in session.”