By Linda Lane
Two insurance companies, Hastings Mutual Insurance and Trust Shield Insurance (formerly Ayres-Rice in Schoolcraft), recently donated $2,500 each in matching grants to boost Schoolcraft’s Friday Pack Program funding.
The Friday Pack program in Schoolcraft sends children home with a bag of food items on Fridays, ensuring they will have enough food to eat over the weekend when they’re not in school. While it is mostly geared for kids in the free or reduced lunch program, the Friday Pack program isn’t limited to this group. Anyone who requests the assistance of the Pack food items is allowed to receive a bag of food.
The bag provided to kids typically includes several breakfast items, four easy-to-heat meals, a fruit cup, a dessert, two beef sticks, a cookie, fruit snack, cracker packet, chips or pretzels, a granola bar and fruit juice. They also receive five snacks for after school during the week.
“While we’re conscious of the nutritional components of the Friday Pack, we try to provide items that kids like to eat and are easy for them to heat and eat,” said Megan Walsh, the vice president of the Friday Pack Program.
The Friday Pack Program purchases the warm meal options from Harding’s in Schoolcraft. During the Christmas break, kids will receive a $10 voucher for Harding’s. They are allowed to shop in certain aisles (alcohol or other items are not allowed to be purchased). The program currently has 52 children receiving the Friday Packs. In other years it has had as many as 72 kids enrolled. There is typically a rise in the program numbers after the holidays.
To participate in the program, a family fills out a simple one-page application which does not include any financial information. Anyone interested in participating in the program may contact the Schoolcraft Community Schools at 269-488-7350. Information can be found online at schoolcraftschools.org.
Alicia Abfall, the Friday Pack program’s treasurer, said last year, “the program was down 23 percent from the 2015 year. This year the funding is higher than 2016, but hasn’t yet reached the highest funded year of 2015.” The influx of the $5,000 donations will greatly add to the program’s budget and success, according to Abfall.
Hastings Mutual Insurance Charitable Foundation provided the first $2,500 donation; Trust Shield Insurance matched its grant with a second $2,500 donation. Hastings Mutual Insurance Charitable Foundation awards grants quarterly to programs such as the Eagle’s Nest in six states in which they do business. This is the second time Hastings has donated to help fund the Friday Pack program; five years ago it also provided funding.
Financial donations may be sent to Schoolcraft Friday Pack, Inc., PO Box 50, Schoolcraft, MI 49087. Donations are tax deductible. Volunteers are sought to help pack and distribute the food bags weekly, according to Abfall.
The Friday Pack components are located inside the Eagle’s Nest, in the former Administrative Building between the Schoolcraft Middle School and Elementary School buildings. It is open the second Saturday of each month from 9-10 a.m. The public is welcome to drop off baby clothing, baby food, wipes, diapers, and food pantry items. These items can also be dropped off at the Schoolcraft Community Library (330 N Centre St) during their open hours.