BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A meal program that began this fall in Fort Madison is providing weekend meal bags for students.
The program is sponsored by the Salvation Army and was pilot program in Keokuk last year. This year Fort Madison students in grades K-5 are eligible to take home a weekend food kit at no charge.
There is also no income limitations on the program.
Donna Palmeter, Food Ministry/ Public Relations Assistant with the Fort Madison Salvation Army, said not putting income limits was important because it allowed the program to cover any child that may be going to bed hungry.
“Not income based at all. Anybody can do it,” Palmeter said. “The reason we have it that way, is that some people may make a nice income, but have medical bills or other reasons that keep them from making it every month.”
“We just make it open to everyone so no one should feel left out. Lee County is the 4th highest in the state for food insecurity so we want to try to help meet those needs.”
She said currently the program has 147 kids, but their are resources available to provide for more children each week.
“We got a grant last year to fund it so we have the funds to help a lot more children and families,” Palmeter said.
The Keokuk program provides meals for K-8th grade and Palmeter said Fort Madison School officials cut the program to K-5 for the first year.
The packages include four meal type foods like a ravioli or mac & cheese, some breakfast options like a cereal bar, or a small box of cereal, snacks and fruit juice.
“It varies from week to week. We put them in grocery sacks and we have volunteers get together once a week and take them to the schools. Over the whole time we’ve had more than 28 volunteers,” she said.
She said local banks and factories have got on board with volunteers, and Arctic Ice donates totes to keep the food cold. She said the Calvary Assembly of God Church donates space to help put the bags together.
“We’re still learning and growing as we do it.”
Parents have to sign their children up for the meals however, due to potential allergens.
“They do have to sign up because we try our best not to have peanuts or peanut products in any of the food items, but parents have to sign indicating they will check for allergens”
Palmeter said the program isn’t on a clock and the Salvation Army will continue to serve meals as long as the need and funding are available.
“We have funding to reach quite a few more kids so we just want to get the word out there so people are aware,” she said.
Registration forms can be picked up at the Fort Madison Food Bank, the Community Action Center, the Salvation Army itself or Richardson, Lincoln or Fort Madison Middle schools.
Palmeter said just take the registration forms to the student’s school and school officials will get in contact with the Salvation Army.