The Rotary Club’s backpack program helps hungry kids by delivering a backpack full of nutritious groceries to needy students.  The intent is to assist them and their families, with enough food to tide them over for other relief sources. 

At Meijer, Pat Leyser says the staff love to see her walk in the door.  She’s a big spender. She takes advantage of buy one get one free promotions in a big way.  One time it was 357 cans of tomato sauce. Another time it was 50 boxes of granola bars.

Backpack Program Helps Hungry Kids

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Leyser is the community service coordinator for the Delta-Waverly Rotary Club.  She is the founder of the children’s Backpack Program.  “Meijer is the go-to place for healthy items like instant oatmeal that kids can easily fix for themselves.”

Meijer, incidentally, is also a company that donated $2,000 in gift certificates last year to help fill those backpacks.

Every other week during the past school year about 175 students at Winans, Elmwood and East Intermediate schools received a backpack full of healthy food items like peanut butter, soup, fruit juice and macaroni and cheese. The idea is that the backpack can tide their families over for the following week.

Ingham County’s “food insecurity” rate mirrors Michigan’s rate, with almost 17-percent of households lacking access at times to enough nutritious food for everyone in the family, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization.

Eaton County’s rate is not as high, but still means almost 13,000 people don’t have enough to eat all the time.

Backpack Program Helps Hungry Kids

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Waverly East principal Vickie Tisdale says her students enjoy being part of what her school calls the “Backpack Club.”

“They really look forward to it (and) it really makes a difference in getting three good meals a day,” she said.

Leyser says the number of eligible students has more than doubled in the three years since the program started.

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