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photo of young womanSamantha “Sammy” Eiffert, who is about to graduate from the Independent Learning Center, took up the challenge of weekend hunger as her senior project. She’s been instrumental in the early success of the Friday Food Program.

Feed the Need
Friday Food program

The response five weeks into a pilot project that is sending weekend food home with 58 Methow Valley School District students has been so positive that organizers are looking to expand the program to include at least 75 students in the fall.

Eventually, “I’m looking to see it grow to where we could offer it to all 200 kids,” Lois Garland, the school district’s family empowerment staffer, told Grist. That’s the number of district students who qualify for free breakfast and lunch at school, meaning that weekend hunger is a reality for many of them. “It’s always been hard for me to know kids are going home to no food,” Garland said before the Friday Food Program was launched.

The pilot project started in late April and continues until school ends in June. As with similar programs happening across the state, selected high school students are finding easy-to-fix and ready-to-eat food has been discreetly placed in their lockers every Friday. Elementary teachers receive a food box with sacks to distribute to selected students in a low-key way that doesn’t single out recipients. The food is intended only for the recipient, and when there are school-age siblings, all of them are eligible.

The response so far has been “We love it,” according to Garland, who partly credits student Samantha “Sammy” Eiffert with start-up success.

Eiffert, who is about to graduate from the Independent Learning Center, is among the many individuals and organizations involved. She helped organize the pilot program as her senior project. In addition to helping research what makes some programs succeed and others fail, Eiffert has worked on logistics, recruited classmates to pack food boxes and helped gather comments and suggestions for improvement from the recipients.

Eiffert told Grist that when she learned there were numerous local kids who didn’t have food on weekends, she wanted to help. “It’s really heartwarming to think that even if your parents can’t support you, there are people in the community who can,” she said.

photo of canned, boxed and packaged foodExamples of the easily prepared and ready-to-eat foods being sent home with students participating in the Friday Food Program pilot project.

Community support is key. The food costs $4 per week or $150 a year for each student. The Cove food bank in Twisp, directed by Glenn Schmekel, is accepting contributions and pledges, which should be earmarked for the Friday Food Program.

The Cove is instrumental among the organizations supporting the project. It is procuring food through Northwest Harvest and Second Harvest in Spokane, which is then sorted and packed at the Cove by student volunteers. Annie McKay, who works with Room One’s Red Shed nutrition program, also has been among the key organizers of the pilot project. The Winthrop Kiwanis Club has provided financial support. Teachers, the school district’s transportation department and members of the Liberty Bell High School Key and Builder’s clubs are also involved.


Garland said one of the most poignant comments from a teenager interviewed for the recent “Methow Voices—Teens Speak” theatrical production was: “They were yelling at me to do the dishes but I didn’t see the point because there was no food to put on them.”

Eiffert said she’s become so dedicated to helping end weekend hunger that she plans to stay in the valley after graduation and "help in years to come.”


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