The Vermillion Rotary Club held its weekly luncheon meeting on Tuesday, August 3, at the Neuharth Media Center on the campus of USD. President John Prescott opened the meeting and led us in the invocation and recitation of the Rotary 4-Way Test. This was followed by a round of singing, introduction of guests, and announcements.
President Prescott introduced Mr. John Lushbough as our speaker for the day. Mr. Lushbough is the director of the Welcome Table. His presentation concerned a program run by the Welcome Table in cooperation with the local school district. The title of the program is the Vermillion Weekend Backpack Food Program. The original Backpack Food Program was piloted by "Feeding America" in 1996. The purpose of the program is to help feed at-risk children over the weekend that needs the food.
He stated that the Sioux Falls school district has a similar program currently serving over 3,000 children every weekend and has a budget of over $500,000. The Vermillion Welcome Table felt that such a program was needed here as well. The local program started in January 2009, and the decision was made to continue through the summer after school let out for families who signed up.
He stated that the Vermillion School District has a "Free or Reduced Lunch Program" at the local schools and the enrollment varies between 35 percent and 50 percent at the various schools. The Backpack Program does not require anyone to fill out an application and he emphasized that it is a school program with the Welcome Table involved as a partner to implement the program.
Currently the program delivers over 50 food packages each week. The program does not feed to child for the whole weekend; rather it supplements the food available in the home. There is a great need to make everyone aware of the problem and of the program. The school district and the Welcome Table is trying to grow the program so that children who need the food are able to get it.
The donated food or money comes from individuals, businesses, and other institutions such as the United Way, churches, memorials, service organizations, student organizations, and individual sponsorships. Many volunteer opportunities exist including: food buying, publicity, packing bags, logo design, help with nutritional selection, and individual student sponsorships.
He suggested that a child sponsorship would cost about $135 per child per year. Anyone wishing to help could contact the Welcome Table or the school district. Donations can be sent to the Welcome Table specifying the Backpack Program.