Members of the Saugerties High School Key Club will soon launch a new program to fight hunger, not in a faraway country, but right here at home. The club plans to begin a weekend backpack food program for district students by February.
Established in hundreds of communities across the country in recent years, backpack programs fight child hunger by making food-filled backpacks available to students in need every Friday afternoon. The packs are stuffed with cereals, granola bars, canned soup, macaroni and cheese cups, peanut butter and jelly, and other ready-to-eat or easily prepared foods. For some students, the food from the packs may be the only thing they have to eat on weekends.
The project will be organized by the Key Club, a community service club sponsored by Kiwanis of Saugerties. Phoebe Defino, an SHS senior and president of the Key Club, said it’s an ideal project for the group because it’s part of the club’s mission to create awareness of social issues and human needs.
“It’s good for all of us,” said junior and Key Club vice-president Kellyann Averill, who added that becoming aware of the needs of others helps give the teens a sense of gratitude for what they already have.
To help get the program up and running, Sawyer Savings presented the Key Club with a check for $1,500 in December. Jenn Gutheil-Denier, manager of the Saugerties branch of Sawyer Savings, a Saugerties alumnus and parent, was on hand to present the check to club officers and pledge the bank’s ongoing support for the project.
Superintendent Seth Turner said he was moved that the Key Club stepped up to organize the backpack program.
“It’s a great idea and I’m very thankful to Sawyer Savings for contributing,” Turner said.
Key Club faculty advisor Missy Greco expressed her pride in club members for their willingness to help others. “They’re very caring, very giving,” she said.
Saugerties Cafeteria Manager Sheila Melville said that in addition to the non-perishable items, the backpacks would include a coupon from Stewart’s for a gallon of milk every other week.
“I’m so excited that we get to do this,” said senior and Key Club treasurer Maggie Pedersen.
Photo: Members of the Saugerties High School Key Club accept a check from Sawyer Savings to launch the club’s weekend backpack food program. From left: Saugerties Business Administrator Lissa Jilek; Key Club advisor Missy Greco; Key Club officers Lauren Ball, Maggie Pedersen, Marissa Hogan, Kellyann Averill, and Phoebe Defino; Sawyer Savings Saugerties Branch Manager Jenn Gutheil-Denier; and Superintendent Seth Turner.