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Backpack Program feeds hungry Quad City kids

It might look like an ordinary Friday at George O. Barr School in Silvis.

“It’s hard for the kids to focus when their stomachs are empty,” said Michelle Johnson.

Johnson is a woman on a mission. The school counselor is helping to fight hunger that faces young students.

“When they go home on the weekends, sometimes we don’t know if they have food in their refrigerator,” she said.

That’s why the River Bend Food Bank created the Backpack Program. It supplements the school breakfast and lunch program during the weekend.

While kids are in classes, she’s delivering food. Some 1,600 Quad City kids just don’t get enough to eat over the weekend.

“The need is great,” she said.

Students get a bag of nutritious, kid-friendly food every Friday during the school year at no charge. Programs like Birdies for Charity and the Corporate Challenge help to fund it.

“Because of this generosity, we’re able to feed the families that we can feed,” said Caren Laughlin, River Bend Food Bank’s marketing director.

Michelle Johnson will stop at some 40 lockers this Friday. It’s a labor of love each time.

“A lot of times, if their bag is still open, I’ll just slip it right in their book bag,” she said.

It’s a small gesture with a big impact. She can see it every week.

“If they see me in the hall, putting the food bag in their locker, they get excited,” she said.

Michelle’s cart is a welcome sight in the hallway. It’s like a secret gift from a caring community.

“It makes a huge difference to these kids,” she concluded. “It really does.”

It’s a matter of fighting childhood hunger one locker at a time at George O. Barr School.

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