St. Francis Outreach continued food program throughout pandemic

The day after its board meeting in mid-march, Saint Francis Outreach members knew their Backpack Weekend Food Program in Dowagiac Union Schools would play a more important role in assisting students who would then be spending time at home instead of the classroom. Families would be responsible for providing more meals and they needed help.

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians was the first federally-recognized organization to assist Saint Francis Outreach in funding the Weekend Food BackPack Program supporting food insecure children in the Dowagiac school system.

The partnership has just completed its fourth year and has been vital to the continued success of this initiative, officials said.

Saint Francis Outreach is a 501(c)(3) Catholic Charitable organization affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo.

Other financial partnering supporters include:  Sister Lakes Community Church, Elks Lodge 889, Pokagon United Methodist Church, Lyons Industries, Dr. Jon Gillesby from Dowagiac Family Dentistry, Cass County 100 Women Who Care, Feeding America, and parishioners from Holy Maternity of Mary Catholic Church, and Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church as well as individual donors in our community.

In addition to the Dowagiac Middle School, the four elementary schools in the Dowagiac School system, Kincheloe, Justus Gage, Patrick Hamilton,and Sister Lakes, have been receiving a grand total of 180 bags of food per week ending during the last week of May.

There were 35 bags each week at each of the four elementary schools and 40 each week to Dowagiac Middle School. The cost to provide each bag of food is approximately $4.50 every week. The food was purchased each month from numerous vendors, including Save- A-Lot, Family Fare, and Harding’s Market in Dowagiac, JA distribution in Buchanan, and Sam’s Club. Throughout the year, volunteers Jeanne Jourdan, Ann Kleva, Marcia Reed, Ken Reed, Donna Dodd, Beth Mahar, Lu Ann Scott, and Dave Scott coordinated the food purchases and distribution.

The packing and delivering volunteers were numerous from each of the schools including the counselors, principals, and secretaries. Several community members gathered in the lower level Holy Maternity of Mary Catholic Church where the food is stored and packed.

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