New Rochester Public Schools program to address childhood hunger

RPS new program to address food insecurity within its school.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:31 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Rochester Public Schools (RPS) is taking a different approach to addressing food insecurity within its students this year.

RPS is teaming up with local food bank Channel One to provide nutritious and wholesome food to not just its students but families.

Many of us may have heard of the school’s backpack program that provides students with meals they can take home for the weekend. RPS and Channel one are replacing the backpack program with a more holistic approach by connecting students and their families to local and state food insecurity resources.

Due to the high price of groceries, more people are using the services at their local food shelves.

“We’ve seen a forty percent increase in shoppers compared to this time last year,” Channel One Regional Food Bank executive director Virginia Merritt said.

It’s not just individuals, families with young children are also struggling to put food on their tables.

“How do we make sure that families who are struggling with food insecurity have the services they need,” RPS community partnerships & education executive director Amy Eich said.

RPS and Channel One have been working together for years through its backpack program, but have since evolved that program to feed not just one student, but their entire family.

“Obviously elementary school students don’t live alone, so if that student doesn’t have food, there’s other people in the household that don’t have food as well,” Merritt said.

“Providing a small pack of food for one child at school to go home for one weekend really wasn’t addressing the food insecurity needs to the child or the household,” Eich said.

They are also introducing food stability boxes that are filled with enough food to feed a family of four for two to three days.

“You know what mom and dad, you’ve got dinner tonight for the whole family right here. This is the number to call channel one tomorrow, or can I help you fill out that SNAPP application,” Merritt said.

Channel One staff members created a guide for RPS school counselor and social workers to use when helping families get connected to food resources.

“Channel One is helping the helpers know how to navigate these resources so that families can get enrolled in SNAP or get delivery from the Channel One food shelf so they can get as much fresh food as possible,” Merritt said.

“They have made themselves really available to our school staff to answer questions and to really make sure that there is not a barrier to a family signing up,” Eich said.

RPS says this new program will help families get more healthy and fresh foods on their tables.

“We can get better food, more nutritious food, more food to your family at your house,” Eich said.

RPS and Channel One are rolling out the new program next month. To get connected with food insecurity resources, you can either reach out to Channel One or talk to your school guidance consoler or social worker.