Program helps students have food on weekends


KALISPELL, Mont. - In the Flathead, local organizations are coming together to raise funds for students in need of a meal over the weekend.

Each Friday volunteers in Whitefish put together bags of food for students to take home so they don't go hungry.

"Approximately 46,000 children in our state have hunger problems," said Bill Mathews, of the Montana Foodbank Network.

The organization has teamed up with schools in Whitefish and Columbia Falls to put together a backpack assistance program where they pack bags of food for children who are in need.

"They might not otherwise have anything over the weekend," said Karen Blanton.

Blanton is a volunteer of the program at Muldown Elementary School in Whitefish. She helps purchase and then put together the food bags, which include fresh produce like bananas, carrots and oranges, as well as things like peanut butter and jelly.

"We load all of these fruits and vegetables onto a cart, and we go through the hallways while the kids are at recess or at music or P.E. and we put them in their backpacks," Blanton said.

The program serves over 200 students in six schools, which currently relies on donations from local organizations.

Mathews believes it's an important program for the community.

"There's definitely a need for it. I mean kids are coming to school and they're getting two meals a day, and then they have that need beyond it. We're really trying to fill that gap and provide that food for them over the night or over the weekend," Mathews said.

Mathews is hoping to work with more schools across the state to help put an end to child hunger.

The program runs through the school year and continues through the summer when Whitefish offers free breakfast and lunch programs for students.

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