Tiger Packs Help to Address Child Hunger in Grinnell
As the holiday season approaches with plans for food, family and fun, opportunities to support those less fortunate are also plentiful.
Tiger Packs, funded through donations to a fund of the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF), is a local program to address the issue of hunger and food insecurity among Grinnell-Newburg students.
Modeled after the Food Bank of Iowa’s Backpack Buddies program, Tiger Packs provides bags of kid-friendly, nutritious food for qualifying students to take home on the weekends when they do not have access to school meals.
Participants—all of whom qualify for the school district’s free and reduced meal program—are identified by teachers, counselors, and school staff. Each bag contains a variety of food items such as granola bars, oatmeal, fruit cups, and soup that are nutritious and easy for kids to prepare. The Tiger Packs are placed anonymously in students’ backpacks each Friday afternoon during the school year.
Income eligibility guidelines from USDA qualifies a family of five earning $51,634 for reduced price school lunch meals, and a family of five earning $36,283 for free meals. Using these federal eligibility guidelines, more than 600 of the district’s 1700 students (38 percent) qualify for free or reduced meals. The Tiger Packs program currently provides packs to 110 of these students at four district schools (20 each at Bailey Park, Fairview and Davis Elementary and 50 at Grinnell Middle School).
GPCF Community Relations Coordinator Delphina Baumann explains that “The Tiger Packs program is designed to lessen the consequence of chronic childhood hunger. The heart of the program is the weekly distribution to children who live in a household that is, on a regular basis, uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet basic needs.”
While there is no cost to families or the school district to participate in theTiger Packs program, Baumann estimates that each weekly bag costs between $3.25 and $3.75 per student, or $126 per student per year. For the 2014-15 school year, the program will distribute $13,800 in Tiger Packs. If all qualified students at all grade levels received the packs, the annual cost would rise to $80,400.
Tiger Packs was established in 2013 by former GPCF Americorps VISTA volunteer Lucy Thoms. The pilot program began in February 2013 and initially served 12 children at Bailey Park and Fairview. The program grew throughout the 2013-14 academic year when 2,024 food bags were distributed to 61 kids in the district.
Fairview Principal Sarah Seney expressed appreciation for the ongoing Tiger Packs program, saying, “Kids can’t learn to their fullest potential if their basic needs aren’t being met. We are thrilled to have a supportive and caring community that provides our students what they need in order to continue to receive a solid education.”
Funding for the pilot program was provided by the Dr. Kevin W. Sterk Elementary Student Needs Fund, a fund of GPCF, and a grant from the Poweshiek County Healthy Choices Coalition. “Last year, we received another Healthy Choices grant, a large donation from the Grinnell United Methodist Church as part of their More Than Enough Campaign, and gifts from GPCF’s Big GIVE Week, as well as cash and in-kind donations from individuals and other organizations,” Baumann said.
Members of Tiger Packs advisory board organize groups of 10-12 volunteers to assemble a month’s worth of Tiger Packs, which are distributed to the schools to hand out to qualified students each week.
“The TigerPacks advisory board works collaboratively with other agencies and organizations that address hunger in the community and to spread the word of what is needed and what each organization is doing to address the need,” Baumann said. “We currently work with MICA, The Food Recovery Network at Grinnell College, the Community Meal, and local churches.”
The advisory board hopes to extend the program to the high school, depending on funding. Tiger Packs advisory board members include: Rose Blank, Angela Edwards Bowles, Doug Cameron, Monica Chavez-Silva, Amy Prescott, Todd Reding, Sarah Seney, Deanna Shorb, and Baumann.
Individuals or groups interested in contributing to the Tiger Packs program or volunteering to assemble packs may contact Baumann at GPCF, 641-236-5518, or send contributions earmarked for Tiger Packs to P.O. Box 344, Grinnell, IA 50112, or donate online at www.greaterpcf.org.
The Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF) is a non-profit organization that assists donors in supporting local non-profit organizations to make life better for people in the area. Tiger Packs is one more than 100 charitable funds managed by GPCF, the umbrella organization for more than 15 nonprofits. The Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation partners with GPCF to provide back office support services through the foundation’s Community Support Services (CSS) program to achieve greater efficiency and increased organizational capacity by sharing office space and administrative services.