Hundreds of children in the Fort Osage School District have benefited from a program that provides them free food over the weekends.

Hundreds of children in the Fort Osage School District have benefited from a program that provides them free food over the weekends.

The “back snack” program is offered through Harvesters via a community partnership with several elementary schools in the district.

Children in families who are struggling to make ends meet and may not have enough food for the child have been benefiting from the program.

Currently, 210 kids each Friday pick up a backpack, which is assigned to them, filled with prepackaged food that provides nourishment for children over the weekend, according to Tracy Luna, a coordinator for Local Investment Commission, which is contracted by the district to provide services.

The demand keeps rising as more and more children are being added to the program, Luna said.

Two schools recently requested to add 20 students to the list. Also, district middle schools are looking at entering the program.

“We know kids can make it without this, but I tell you that families right now are struggling,” Luna said. “Some of the parents have come back and said ‘you don’t know how much this has helped our grocery bill.’”

The packs include several days worth of food. The pack has enough food to last a child for one weekend.

They typically include two miniature cereal boxes, a cereal bar or Pop Tart, a can of vegetable beef soup, canned fruit, peanut butter and crackers.

Organizers have tried to add fresh fruit and bread provided by Harvesters but recently haven’t been able to do that because of food shortages at Harvesters.

“They’re (the kids) so excited to have the food,” Luna said. “They love it. Anytime there’s something new in the packs, they get so excited.”

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Independence stepped up earlier this week and donated 900 Lunchables to last them for the extended weekend.

The church also donated five bushels of apples for the packs.

Volunteers from community groups affiliated with each elementary school that participates in the program help pack the food, which is prepackaged and dropped into the backpacks.