LUMMI RESERVATION - On any given Friday, some students at Lummi Tribal Elementary School could go home without knowing when or where their next meal would be.
"Getting a snack after school on a Friday could be a true blessing," said Laura Porter, family support coordinator for the school. "It could be their meal."
Now, a local chapter of the national Blessings in a Backpack program will give low-income students a bag full of food to take home every Friday.
Ferndale mom Kristi Martin first read about the national program in People magazine. When she saw that Lummi elementary had nearly all of its students on free or reduced-price lunch, she knew it was a school where the program could make an impact. After talking with school staff, she started the local chapter of Blessings in a Backpack.
"If people are hungry and they're right near me and there's something I could do about it, I wanted to be able to help in that way," she said.
So far, she has raised more than $9,000 to buy food for the school's approximately 150 kindergarten through sixth-grade students, and says she has a great group of volunteers to help organize and distribute food to the students.
Feeding the students costs about $12,000 a year, and she hopes it will run for at least three years.
The program started Sept. 14, distributing bags filled with pre-prepared foods such as tuna, oatmeal, breakfast bars, juice boxes, cans of soup or fruit snacks every Friday. When she can get it, Martin puts in fresh fruit as well.
"It's geared to be stuff that's easy to prepare and something the kids can do on their own if they needed to," she said. "Grab-and-go stuff."
Each student gets a little more than $2 worth of food, at a cost of about $80 per student per school year. It may not sound like a lot, but Porter said it makes a big difference.
"Some of our families, they're in survival mode, and any little bit helps for some of our students," Porter said. "It's really a good thing."
Teachers have heard nothing but positive feedback from parents, Porter said, and the kids, they love it.
"They're very excited to get their bags every Friday," she said. "It's amazing to watch."
HOW TO HELP
People interested in volunteering or donating can get in touch with Kristi Martin at Blessings4lummi@hotmail.com. People who would like to donate online can go to blessingsinabackpack.org and make sure to designate Lummi Nation Tribal Elementary as the recipient.
You can also find them at Facebook by searching for "blessings in a backpack lummi elementary."
Reach ZOE FRALEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 756-2803.