SANDPOINT — Kids from five area elementary schools get weekend nutrition through "Bite2Go," better known as the backpack program.
For Bonner Community Food Bank staff, going through each bag of food every week before it is shipped off to the students is a tedious but required task to ensure none of the contents have been opened or gone bad. So when 10 Lake Pend Oreille High School students enthusiastically took on the task Thursday, they helped to make a difference for the children who receive the food, as well as the staff whose task it normally is.
"I think it's great when we can get students in to give back and volunteer," said Debbie Love, food bank executive director.
For many of the students, like sophomore Delaney Tibbetts, it was their first time helping out at the food bank.
"I absolutely love it," Tibbetts said about volunteering. "I get to honestly see people smile because there is actually people out there helping — I love seeing people like that."
She did a lot of volunteer work in the community as a Girl Scout when she was younger. As she got older, she wanted to volunteer more at places like the food bank, but school and work got in the way.
After a tour of the facility, the teens dug right in, finding some opened items, such as a can of spaghetti and meatballs. Some of the students also went through cases of canned foods recently delivered to the food bank from Super 1 Foods, putting the cans in crates and stacking them.
Rand Rosecrans, LPOHS culinary arts teacher, said he gave the students a few options as to where they might like to volunteer, and the they voted to help out at the food bank. He said most of the students really enjoy going out and doing hands-on activities, and he looks for any opportunity to teach them real, practical life skills they can use to help their community.
"We are looking for opportunities to both enhance and teach them self-sufficiency, and also in self-sufficiency, it builds self-esteem," Rosecrans said. "Those things go together so well."
He also the opportunity to highlight things they have discussed in class, like the fact that a cheeseburger can be purchased inexpensively, but healthy food costs a lot.
"And here, that's something I noticed when I was working here, is produce is really encouraged," he said. "One of our units is nutrition, so that is something to think about is the people you are helping are encouraging that food going out."
The backpack program also aims to add nutrition and protein to kids' diets, Love said. The kits typically include items like milk, fresh fruit, beans, rice, cereal, beef jerky, pretzels and more.
Although challenging, Rosecrans said he is enjoying his first year teaching at LPOHS, with a "wonderful" group of students. He hopes to do some raised garden beds soon to grow some fresh herbs and produce so, for example, the teens can learn how to make their own tomato sauces. As one of the class projects, the students are writing a cookbook, which he hopes to compile the recipes and list them online when they are done.
"What I try to do is push local, fresh, healthy, nutritious and things that they can make," Rosecrans said.
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