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Northwest Salmon




PACH program continues to fill void for needy kids

by George Thompson

It’s been almost 18 months since the People Against Child Hunger (PACH) program was started in Webster and since then the volunteer organization has provided more than 750 weekend meals to students in the Webster School District and the Head Start program.
One of the founders, Pastor Will Olsen says the feeding effort has gone well as various food items are loaded into a backpack each week and distributed on Thursdays.
“We are providing meals to 41 students from Head Start to high school,” he explained. “It’s been real good for some of the kids, especially those in Head Start. There’s still some resistance to our program but we’re working on that. Parents who have signed up have told us they appreciate what we’re doing. It really helps them out.”
The PACH program relies mainly on financial and commodity donations, but it’s different from the food pantry because most items must be kid friendly.
“We give out a lot of mac and cheese because the kids like it and it’s easy to make,” Olsen related. “We’re always looking for stuff in individual servings that a kid can prepare. If it’s microwavable we like it.”
The program also tries to maintain a nutritional balance. “A couple of months ago we found milk in small containers which has about a six month shelf life,” he said. “That’s great because the kids can drink milk with a meal or use it on their individual boxes of cereal. It replaces some of the sweetened juices we were giving out before.” Olsen says PACH also tries to include some fresh fruit in each backpack.
Most food donations come from within the community. Typically foodstuffs are dropped off at the local grocery or discount stores, participating churches or the school.
The program relies on financial donations to purchase some of its needed items. Olsen explained PACH doesn’t rely much on Feeding South Dakota because the state’s main food bank provides items in such large quantities.
“We know some kids, if they don’t get a backpack each week, won’t have much to eat over the weekend,” he continued. “Our community has been very good about financial donations. We had some sizeable individual donations recently and that’s really helped. If kids are involved, the community seems to open their pocketbooks more.”
The PACH operates about nine months a year, taking a break over the summer months when school isn’t in session. Olsen said the eight member PACH board has had discussions about doing something over the summer but hasn’t reached a concensus yet. “We alway worry that there may be other kids in need that aren’t being served but we can’t do anything unless we received parental approval. We’ve worked well with the school.”
He noted in the near future PACH is planning to hold a meeting with the public to further explain the program in hopes of recruiting more volunteers.
He said the volunteers they do have are greatly appreciated and most believe in what they’re doing. The retired pastor also said the move to a permanent home in the Webster Armory has allowed the group to buy strategically and made loading the backpacks less of a chore.

Fiksdal Funeral Home

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