Many children across the country must rely on free school lunch and breakfast programs in order to eat on a daily basis, and unfortunately Southwest Washington is no different. The services that provide help to the students see their funding drastically drop as their services are out of sight, out of mind for the majority people during the summer.
This leads to a huge problem for the students who use these services as a safety net. Without the funding in place come September, the programs are unable to provide the food and resources needed. Nationwide backpack programs emerged to help by supplying children in need with a backpack of prepared, or easy to prepare food, to sustain them over the weekend. The Backpack Program of Pacific County serves students at Long Beach Elementary, Ocean Park Elementary, Hilltop School, Ilwaco High School and Ocean Beach Alternative School for a total of over 200 kids per week.
Wauna Credit Union recognized the need the Backpack Program filled in the community and wanted to help. The credit union, with branches in Long Beach, Astoria, Warrenton, Clatskanie, Vernonia, St. Helens and Scappoose made the Backpack Program of Pacific County its official charity for the year and throughout the year fundraises for the organization in many different ways. Employees donate a portion of every paycheck to the Backpack program, raffle off tickets to Trailblazer games and even sell Sees Chocolate with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the charity.
“People associate backpack programs with schools, and forget about us once the mercury starts rising,” said Natalie Hanson, Backpack Program Co-Founder, “We’re really thankful that Wauna Credit Union continues to be involved. In addition to offering their support, they are offering to be a collection point for members of the community.”
WCU has been successful so far, raising $6305 of its $12,000 goal for 2017, which has already helped to provide200 children weekend meals for 12 weeks. The summer is often a hard time to raise money for school children, as people often see the Backpack Program as a school-based endeavor. Wauna Credit Union is still actively soliciting contributions at all branches across Columbia and Clatsop counties in Oregon, and Pacific County in Washington. in Astoria, Warrenton, Clatskanie, Vernonia, St. Helens and Scappoose, as well as the Mortgage Origination Office in Long Beach. Members can even call in to donate and have a Member Consultant transfer money directly to The Backpack Program.
“One of Wauna Credit Union’s core values is to be ambassadors in our communities and beyond,” said Jenifer Katon at Wauna Credit Union. “I cannot think of a better way to do that than through the Backpack Program. It serves the most underserved and vulnerable members of our communities. I am so thrilled to be able to give back to our communities through this program.”
More help is always needed in our area. According to Feeding America, the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States, 15.7 percent of Pacific County residents are food insecure, with many of the most vulnerable children.