Two programs — one year-round and one geared for the holidays — are working to help kids in need at the Hillsboro City Schools.
Power Packs, a package containing more than a dozen shelf-stable and kid-friendly food items, are sent home with eligible students each Friday during the school year, and the Giving Tree program provides Christmas gifts for students who need them.
Both programs are coordinated at Hillsboro High School and Hillsboro Middle School by Susan Rhoads, a school prevention counselor. Hillsboro Elementary School’s Power Pack program is coordinated by principal Jacob Zink.
“The Power Pack program is awesome because it is providing meals to those kids who won’t have food otherwise, and it is easy stuff they can fix or eat,” said Rhoads. “I have lots of kids who tell me they like the food that they get so I think it’s very beneficial.”
The Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati provides Power Packs to students in eight counties including Highland County in Ohio and eight counties in Northern Kentucky.
Some examples of what can be found in a Power Pack are whole grain cereals, fruit and vegetable juices, sunflower seeds, oatmeal bars, complete pasta meals, and other healthy snacks.
Children who are served by the program may be food insecure, meaning they aren’t always sure where they will get their next meal. According to Freestore Foodbank, research shows that hungry children are more likely to be absent from school, lack focus and energy, and are vulnerable to illness.
The Power Pack program is part of a larger national effort by Feeding America with more than 150 member food banks distributing weekend packages across the country.
Donations can be made through the Freestore Foodbank at freestorefoodbank.org. Contributors should list the school in the note field of the donation so the donation will help expand the amount of students able to participate.
“What is different this year at the high school and middle school is that we’re actually putting the Power Packs in kids’ lockers,” said Rhoads. “This year it has been much better in getting more kids participating because they are OK that we put the Power Packs in their lockers so nobody is going to know and they can put it in their book bag.”
Students are generally referred to the program by teachers and applications are available from Rhoads at Hillsboro High School.
“We have kids that are on a waiting list who don’t get the Power Packs from the Freestore Foodbank, but we have additional money to help those who are on our waiting list,” said Rhoads.
The Giving Tree program provides additional help for students during the holidays.
“We have a couple of organizations here at school that will sponsor families for Christmas,” said Rhoads. “I’ll put the names of the students on the Christmas tree and let the staff know I have a name on the tree so someone can provide Christmas for this child and they contact me, and I give them information about the size of clothes and things they might want.
“It’s for whatever the child puts on their Christmas list. Generally, it’s clothes or toy items, but I know for the high school kids, it’s generally makeup or video games and things like that.”
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.