During the fall of 2022, the Winneconne Area Community Foundation (WACF) Board approved a matching grant to support the 2022 and 2023 Winneconne Masonic Lodge Food and Fund Drive to benefit the Winneconne Area Assistance Center (WAAC). The first $1,000 in cash donations in 2022 was matched by a grant from the Winneconne Basic Needs Fund, which is also matching the first $1,000 in cash donations in 2023. Final results for the 2022 drive include $4,700 in cash donations plus the $1,000 WACF match.
The pilot project began in 2019 by providing 23 backpacks filled with food to Winneconne Middle School students. As the pilot program quickly grew, a partnership was formed with WACC and the initial $5,500 cost was covered by donors who wanted to see the project succeed.
Fast forward to 2022-23, and Project Backpack has been in full swing for several years with approximately 110 backpacks being sent home with students of Winneconne Elementary, Middle, and High School.
Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and students themselves identify the need for additional food support during weekends. Teachers and others volunteer their time each Wednesday to stuff the backpacks and have them ready for distribution on Fridays. A concerted effort is made to be discreet about the distribution to prevent stigmatizing the program.
Program directors Dan and Jenny Breister shared, “Parents and students alike are incredibly grateful for the extra support the bags offer their families. When the program began, the cost for each bag averaged $5. Due to inflation, the current cost is roughly $8 per bag. At the end of the school year, a box is also prepared containing food items and is sent home with recipients in an attempt to help during the months away from school. As all food is purchased, the program costs are about $25,000 to $30,000 per school year, which includes the summer box.”
Starting in 2020, the Winneconne Masonic Lodge incorporated Project Backpack into their annual Food and Fund Drive to benefit WAAC. Several businesses including A&W, StoneRidge Piggly Wiggly, and Multi-Conveyor Corporation have stepped forward with support programs that have been very popular.
To help projects like this in our community, consider giving to the Winneconne Basic Needs Fund.