Smart Sacks Provide Menominee Children with Nutritious Food Throughout the Weekend

In Keshena, Wisconsin, it was common for children come to classes in the Menominee Indian School District on a Monday morning hungry, having not eaten substantial meals during the weekend.

Teachers documented that the lack of food from school lunch on Friday, until students returned back to school on Monday, caused fatigue, absenteeism, and poor health in general, severely impacting the children’s ability to learn.

To address that critical need, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® initiated its “Smart Sacks” program in the 2010-2011 school year for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children in the school district to provide them with a backpack filled

with nutritious snacks on Fridays to take home so they would have something to eat on the weekends.

The impact was immediate.

 Teachers saw a huge difference in their students and came to Running Strong with a request to help even more students. Together, Running Strong and the school district was able to work out a plan to expand the “Smart Sacks” program to include children in grades first through third – a total of 300 children weekly and 9,000 “Smart Sacks” for the entire school year.

This year, the number has grown to 1,350 “Smart Sacks” each week with a typical backpack containing cans of beans and franks, canned vegetables, oatmeal, fruit cups, fruit and grain bars, non-fat dry milk powder packs, and for dessert, chocolate pudding cups.

This ensures that students do not go hungry on their days off from school, and neither do their siblings or their parents.

In addition, but it also brings in volunteers from the community into the school every Friday to fill the Smart Sacks and distribute them to the students.

Business Manager Robert Ferguson noted that those who receive the food sacks all come from very low-income families, and for them this program is vital.

“The Smart Sacks program provides our primary school students food for the weekends (September – May),” he said. “Many students would not have food for the weekend without this program.

“This is a very successful program.”

In partnership with the school district, Running Strong ships healthy foods including milk, sunflower seeds, chicken noodle soup, beef stew, fruit and grain bars, oatmeal and raisins which are packed up by school volunteers and distributed to the children.

Due in part to the “Smart Sacks” program, the Menominee Indian School District became the first school district on an Indian reservation in the Midwest to receive a Silver in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Healthier School Challenge for meeting rigorous stands for school meals, physical activity and nutrition education.

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