Weekend Snackpack program expands to Dakota Wesleyan University campus
Friday, June 28, 2013
By: Braley Dodson
The Daily Republic
The Mitchell Weekend Snackpack program will relocate to the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University, board members decided Thursday evening.
The meeting, held at the First United Methodist Church and attended by nine people, covered moving the program from the living room of board president Cindy Novachich’s house to DWU’s old biology lab.
For the past three years, Weekend Snackpack has stored its food in Novachich’s living room and donations have been left on her front porch. The first time Snackpacks will be handed out for junior and senior high school students at DWU will be Aug. 30, and services at the elementary school will continue on the same date.
The nonprofit program began in January of 2010, and has since expanded to assist 310 children per week. The food is packed in recycled grocery bags and given to elementary school children on Fridays.
Snackpacks are distributed every week of the school year, except for the first and last Friday.
The packs contain a fruit, grain, an entree and two other food items.
The organization has handed out $58,000 in food over the past two and a half years, with more than $30,000 donated last year.
Novachich, who works two jobs to help support the program, said the room’s shelves and cupboards at DWU will allow for more food to be stored, along with more area for volunteers to work on packing food. In her house, there is only room for eight people to pack food. The move to DWU will expand that to 30. The old biology lab is located in Hughes Hall, on the western side of the campus. The building borders West University Avenue.
“My dream was to find a place we would have rent free that would be an appropriate place for youth to go to,” Novachich said. “This seems like an answer.”
Novachich said the program has previously been run out of her home to avoid paying rent and to direct more funds toward the food. The old biology lab will be provided rent free.
Weekend Snackpack just finished applying for the Mitchell Area Charitable Foundation Grant. It is requesting $15,000 between two grants for a renovation of the lab, signage for the building, signage for vehicles, a cart for transporting food, a vehicle purchase, office supplies and a computer.
The move from Novachich’s home to the old biology lab opens the door to the possibility of assisting junior and senior high school students. Novachich said because the new location is near a street, it would provide the opportunity for older youth to receive food without being singled out, a concern she’s heard from junior and senior high school educators.
Weekend Snackpack has joined forced with DWU’s Enactus team. The two groups began working together earlier this year, and will continue their partnership.
The program is in the process of applying for a grant.
Brent Matter, a junior at DWU and project coordinator for the Enactus team, linked the two groups together. While competing with the Enactus team on a project with Campbell’s Soup to gather 5,000 pounds of food, he thought there was a chance to expand the project.
“DWU has a lot of resources, Enactus has resources, Mitchell has resources,” Matter said. “Why not pool all those resources?”
Matter attended school in Iroquois and saw firsthand the benefits and need of a backpack food program.
“There’s definitely a need for a program across the state,” Matter said.
The Enactus team will cover the insurance and maintenance of the new vehicle, and Matter said the group is considering building bins for donations on a concrete slab outside of Hughes.
“It’s like a miracle for me,” Novachich said. “It’s given me new dreams for snackpack, and a new spark.”
The board also approved the group’s application to be a participant in the United Way Day of Caring on Aug. 7.
Novachich drew inspiration for the program through her childhood and interaction with others.
“I grew up really poor, I walked those streets and I understand,” Novachich said. “I want Mitchell kids to know that people in this town care about them.”
Board members expressed concern on how junior high students would travel to the campus.
Novachich said she sees kids walking around town often, and Matter wasn’t concerned.
“If you’re hungry, you’ll find a way to get there,” Matter said.
The board discussed, but did not vote, on eventually stocking diapers and formula.