OTTAWA — A new program to combat hunger will begin this school year at Ottawa Elementary School.
Two Ottawa couples have been working the past few months to organize a program known as the KNAP (Keeping Nutrition Available Squad) Sack program. The couples are Dave and Becky Leader and Bob and Jackie Luttfring.
Becky Leader said they are taking “baby steps” to start the program.
“We will provide weekend meals one weekend a month for students in grades 1 to 5,” she said.
The organizers estimated they will need to serve 150 to 200 students.
Becky Leader said during one of her church’s sermons the pastor challenged members to do something about a world problem. She said childhood hunger was an area that concerned her.
“Students who are hungry cannot learn as fast and have lower academic achievements,” Becky Leader said.
She said 53 percent to 55 percent of the pupils at Ottawa Elementary School receive free or reduced-price lunches.
“My concern was about what happens to these students on the weekends,” Becky Leader said.
She talked about her concerns to her friend Jackie Luttfring, a former cafeteria worker. Jackie Luttfring shared these concerns having seen hungry students.
The women approached elementary school principal Dean Brinkman about the idea. They also met with the West Ohio Food Bank about the costs to provided prepared meals for the weekend.
Each pupil will receive two breakfasts, two lunches, two snacks, two fruits and two dinners in their weekend knapsack. The bag of food will be slipped into their knapsack by the teachers while the pupils are out of the class.
“We won’t know the names of the students,” Becky Leader said “And we want to also provide confidentiality for the student in this way.”
The cost for the program is estimated at $700 per month. The couples are currently speaking to local service clubs to acquire the funding for the program and have received several financial commitments.
“We might eventually be able to package the weekend meals ourselves and save some money,” Becky Leader said. “For right now though we are trying to raise financial support so we can sustain the program throughout the school year.”