Nearly 100% of children living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation qualify for the free federal meals program. This means that while in school students have access to breakfast and lunch regardless of cost.
But what about the weekends?
With an annual median income of just over $18,000, Cheyenne River families are often forced to choose one essential item over another. This means that sometimes there simply isn’t enough left over to provide a nutritious weekend meal.
And this isn’t just an issue in Cheyenne River. Menominee Indian School District Superintendent Wendell Waukau put it this way: “Our school district suffers from a high rate of poverty. As a result, children come to school having not eaten over the weekend.”
To help ease the burden these students face, we began the “Smart Sacks” program. These “Sacks” are bags filled with food for students to take home for the weekends. They contain enough food to feed the student’s entire family for the whole weekend.
The sacks include items such as milk, sunflower seeds, soup, fruit bars, oatmeal, dried beans, rice, pasta, canned vegetables, and raisins.
This food is a critical element of the student’s academic success. As the National Education Association states – “Missing meals and experiencing hunger impair children’s development and achievement.”
Noting food’s importance, in the 2017-2018 school year our plan is to provide 4,320 Smart Sacks to students.