Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Community joins forces to feed kids

by MARCY TIMBLIN Contributing Writer
| May 21, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — For our local children, summer vacation is a time for swimming, biking, and playing with friends.

It is also a time for hunger. For the 40% of children in eastern Bonner County who depend on the Free and Reduced Lunch program during school months, summer vacation means reduced access to food. 

Lake Pend Oreille School District has provided summer meals to low income children for many years in high poverty areas through the USDA federal summer meals program grant. A one-summer pause has been put on the summer meals program due to the much-needed expansion of the refrigerator and freezer space at the Child Nutrition Warehouse, where inventory for all schools in the district is held. This means that LPOSD is unable to serve and store meals for the program this summer.  

Several community organizations have come together to ensure that kids are nourished to play, grow, and stay active during the summer months. When kids have the nutrition they need during summer vacation, they can return to school in the fall ready to learn. 

“Let's Picnic!”, a partnership of Bonner Community Food Bank, East Bonner County Library District, Food For Our Children, Kaniksu Land Trust, Lake Pend Oreille School District and the University of Idaho Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center, was created to feed kids during summer vacation through a grassroots community effort. The partnership is pooling its resources to coordinate this enormous project. Support from the community is vital to fund the program. 

Multiple sponsorship levels are available. A single child can be sponsored for $30/week or $130/month. An entire week of lunches can be sponsored for $1,500. Or a month of lunches can be provided for $7,500. Donations are accepted in any amount. The “Let’s Picnic!” partnership has set a goal of $85,000 to fund the project for the entire summer. 

“It is difficult to think about the number of children in our county who experience hunger every day.  During the school year, Food For Our Children provides nearly 14,000 bags of weekend food for our elementary school kids who otherwise may not have access to sufficient food until Monday morning when a school breakfast is provided.  This hunger doesn't disappear during the summer months,” said Michele Murphree, Food For Our Children.

The program will serve children 1-18 years of age.They can pick up a prepared lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sandpoint Library, 1407 Cedar St., Sandpoint; or at Kootenai Elementary, 301 Sprague St., Kootenai, where lunches will be distributed at the school’s Hope Street entrance. The program runs June 20 through Sept. 2. There are no income requirements and no questions asked. 

Meals will be prepared and distributed thanks to growing community support. Each week a separate group will volunteer to prepare lunches and distribute them at the two locations. 

The Sandpoint Library has enlisted their newly-formed Teen Leadership Council to assist in the distribution of lunches at that site. “We are extremely excited to be able to provide a pickup spot for summer lunches. We are lucky enough to have started a Teen Leadership Council this year that will also help provide volunteers for the library's stop. We are so glad to be able to give the community's youth summer volunteer and lunch opportunities," Youth Librarian Erin Tonnemacher said.

“In order to reach as many children in need as possible, meal distribution sites are located in areas that are 50% or greater low income," Bobbie Coleman, director of Child Nutrition for LPOSD said. "These sites are often public schools, community libraries or city parks and are generally combined with learning and recreational activities.”

Summer is a critical time for youths' social and physical wellbeing, Debbie Love, executive director of the Bonner Community Food Bank said.

"Having access to meals during the summer gives them the confidence of knowing when and from where their next meal is coming, which creates a food secure community. As our organizations unite, the idea of having the Summer Meals Program put on hold was not an option. We are proud of our community and the collaboration that is happening to pull this together for our youth.”

“When there is a need in our community, the partnerships that exist between non-profits allow us to solve big community challenges,” concluded Katie Cox, Executive Director of Kaniksu Land Trust. 

For information on volunteering or donating toward the program, contact Kaniksu Land Trust: or 208-263-9471.