Pick-a-Pack introduced at PdC schools

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

Prairie du Chien High School FFA adviser Diane Colburn and the FFA have introduced what they call the Pick-a-Pack program that all students can participate in which will help families with school-aged children during the holiday season and beyond.

Colburn sent a letter out to all parents and guardians recently explaining Pick-a-Pack. She didn’t know what the response would be, but so far it has been great.

“We understand that families with school-aged children may face extra expenses during the holiday break,” the letter stated. “The Prairie du Chien FFA would like to offer help. We have made arrangements to provide back packs of ready to serve foods to be used by students over the long break.”

The letter went on to say that the back packs will be sent home with students on Friday, Dec. 20.

Colburn said the FFA and the school are hoping to make Pick-a-Pack a lasting project and, therefore, they asked that the back packs be returned to the school office after the break.

“As long as there is interest and support, we will refill the back packs for Friday afternoons and other school breaks,” the letter states.

The FFA has provided bags of food items for high school students during the past two years, but they wanted to expand the program to include all the students and for more than just the holiday break. “After some research of other school programs, we decided to start what we call “Pick-a-Pack” here,” she said.

All 42 members of the FFA will be helping with Pick-a-Pack in one way or another, said Colburn. 

She explained that ready to serve foods are foods that do not need to be cooked or warmed. “We will especially try to provide younger children with packages that are easy to open and don’t require a can opener,” she said. “The foods we will be putting in the backpacks are meant to be for the students who receive them. We are hopeful that the students will bring the backpacks back to school after the weekends/breaks so that we can reuse them for the following weekend/break. If we can get the backpacks back in good condition, it will help us use more resources on the food items to fill them.”

Food insecurity continues to be a major issue of concern for the FFA organization on both the state and national level, said Colburn in noting that multiple FFA chapters and schools across the state are providing similar services. For example, Viroqua and other schools have food pantries right in their schools. 

FFA chapters in Wisconsin have started to challenge each other in peanut butter, jelly and pasta collections. There is also the 10-gallon challenge that was on social media a while ago. FFA tries to work on serious needs and yet make it a bit of fun.

The FFA motto is only 12 words, but those words pack a punch: “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” 

“I think advisers really strive to have their FFA members take these words to heart, this is really what we are striving to do in FFA,” Colburn said. “Our chapter is so very thankful for the generosity and encouragement from people we have reached out to for assistance with this project. Kayla Mezra and Mike Liddell have been wonderful to offer their assistance, and I am sure other groups will volunteer at some point to really make this a community thing.”

In fact, Colburn said, some parents who received the letter have offered to help fund the purchases of food and additional backpacks, if needed. Many have volunteered to help in any way they can to make this program work. 

“It just feels like it’s the right thing to do and we are happy to have the opportunity to start something that might make a positive difference in the lives of all students here in Prairie du Chien,” said Colburn. “This took a leap of faith and a bit of a shove. It has been sort of a ‘build it and they will come’ project. I had no idea how many students would get signed up and at the end of the first day, we had over 30 backpacks requested. Emails are still coming in. It is humbling.”

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