Program feeds kids through "Big Blue Backpack"

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Several Millikin University students sift through boxes of food and sort it into plastic grocery bags at The Good Samaritan Inn in Decatur on a Wednesday morning.

 The food is meant for students in need at Dennis Lab School.

“We try to make sure we get as much food into these kids’ backpacks as we can,” said Millikin senior Jonathan Reick. “We try to make sure they don’t have the same things over and over again.”

The food is distributed through a program called Big Blue Backpacks, now in its second year. The food sorted at The Good Samaritan Inn is taken to the school every two weeks and placed in discrete backpacks that select students take home. The program was developed by students after conversations between the lab school’s principal and the students’ professor. It is based on similar programs elsewhere.

“We all jumped on board and thought it was a great idea for the community,” said Millikin senior Trista Smith.

Rev. Stacey Brohard, executive director of The Good Samaritan Inn, said the program addresses a nutritional gap for some students.

“Family budgets only go so far,” Brohard said. “A lot of the kids would end up being on the lunch programs or maybe the breakfast programs at school. There may not be enough budget to have the good food at home on the weekends. So a lot of times they don’t eat nearly as good at home as they do at school.”

Each student in the program is budgeted at $80 per year. Donations can be made through the Decatur Public School Foundation, attention of Mr. Zach Shields, Decatur Public School Foundation, 101 West Cerro Gordo, Decatur, Illinois 62523 with “Big Blue Backpacks” in the memo line or letter.

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