“There are hungry children in our community, and this program combats that,” she said.
John Branstad agrees. He came to the ECHO Food Shelf, where the boxes were assembled, with the Greater Mankato Growth Leadership Institute. The group, which meets monthly, spent this month’s meeting volunteering, and a dozen or so of them were at ECHO.
When they came to ECHO, the Backpack Food Program was there and needed bodies, and the leadership participants happily jumped in.
Branstad said he regularly gives money to ECHO. This project gave him a chance to do a little more than that.
“It’s nice to see behind the scenes,” he said.
Like Pankonin, Branstad said his efforts didn’t really seem like work.
“It’s good, it’s energizing,” he said. “It’s the kind of work that feeds the spirit.”
The Backpack Food Program is in place at Kennedy, Franklin, Rosa Parks and Washington elementary schools. Melinda Wedzina, program director, said they’re hopeful they can branch out to other schools. To do that, they’ll need funding.
Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, the Backpack Food Program provided 99,016 meals, or 68,179 pounds of food.