Following the uncertainty in April about the future of the Food4kids program, a new group of volunteers have stepped up to continue delivering food to families in need within the community.
Lisa Ross first became involved in the program when she moved to Creswell four years ago. She bagged and delivered food because at the time the program needed extra people. Eventually, Ross stepped back to be involved in other programs, but when the need arose again, she joined the team.
”Creswell is one of the richest cities in Oregon per capita, but close to 85 percent of students are on a free or reduced lunch,” she said. ”Some families need help getting through the weekend. It’s very important to us. Our ultimate goal is helping the families and getting food to the kids.”
Along with Ross, Pastor Doug Allison of the Creswell Church of Christ was also asked to be involved. He said even though members of his parish are involved, it’s not a program through them.
”Our church’s vision is to help Creswell be a better place, one family at a time,” he said. ”We’re helping Creswell, and that’s why we said yes to this program. We believe kids are absolutely worth it.”
The Food4Kids program started five years ago, after Creslane Principal Ryan Beck learned about the food instability in Creswell homes. Food4Kids volunteers buy nutritious, easy to eat food with protein, which they package into bags that children at the elementary, middle and high school level can take home. For years, the program was running with two to three ”amazing” volunteers, Beck said; however, it’s a lot of work and it led to an eventual burnout.
The program serves around 100 students a week and, with this new group of volunteers, there are around 50 to 60 people willing to help out.
Along with a new group of volunteers, there will be some new changes to the program to make it K-12 sustainable.
”There was a stigma attached to the bags going home,” Crystal Purdue, family resource coordinator, said. ”Kids would throw the bags away. We’d find some in the trash can because they were embarrassed. That’s our concern, how can we help take away the burden of embarrassment?”
Although it was less of a problem at Creslane, from fifth grade through 12th the perceived stigma is keeping kids from joining the program, and getting the nourishment they need.
”We have a lot of kids from Creslane who have siblings in older buildings, and we were wondering why it wasn’t gaining the same traction,” Beck said. ”Kids don’t want other kids knowing they need support.”
This year, Food4Kids will have the resources to drop bags off at family’s homes if they prefer that to their child taking the food home. Forms were mailed out to families to give them the option to have a bag dropped off at their house, without any interaction.
”We want to maintain confidentiality, but we have to get the food to the house” Purdue said. ”This form is mailed to each family on the list last year. It said if they want to take part, to please return and give permission to share the address.”
So far, they have gotten three forms back approving the change.
”The goal this year is to establish the program at the middle and high school,” Beck said. ”Then we want to expand over the summer and long breaks.”
Purdue said that when she sees a need in the community, she tries to fill it.
”The need I see in the community is a need for a little extra support with food,” she said. ”If we can lighten that burden, it’s a win-win for me, the community, the school and that family. This new change will help food make it home.”
For more information contact Crystal Purdue, family resource coordinator, at 541-895-6175 or Lisa Ross at 541-419-9999.