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March 19, 2014

Food bank donates healthy snacks to Andes students

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — Beginning this week, 25 elementary students from Andes Central School will be bringing food-filled brown bags home, instead of to school. 

Robert Chakar, superintendent of the school, said each student in pre-Kindergarten through second grade will receive a brown bag on Friday afternoon that will be full of healthy snacks to bring home for the weekend. The mission, he said, is to put nutritious foods in kids’ hands, giving them healthy eating options for the weekend.

“We want to condition their taste buds,” Chakar said. “If we provide healthy food, we know they’ll eat it. And, hopefully, they may become lifelong healthy eaters.”

 The initiative is in line with a national agenda that both the President and First Lady have been pushing, Chakar said. The breakfasts and lunches that are made in the school cafeteria are healthy, Chakar said, but students are often faced with harder choices when they get home.

According to MSNBC, Michelle Obama recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of her Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was created in 2010 during a national obesity epidemic. Through this act and the Let’s Move initiative, the Obama administration has pushed for healthier school menus, expanded free lunches and expanded after-school exercise programs and, most recently, worked to eliminate sugar-filled, fatty foods from school vending machines.

Chakar said the brown bag program is a community-based initiative, organized by the Andes Food Bank and Tom Joyce, a member of the Andes Town Council. Fresh fruit, raisins and granola will fill the bags which, Chakar said, will go home with students every Friday. Eventually, the school would like to be able to provide the healthy snack bags for third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders, as well, he said.

Tom Joyce said he spoke with Joi Brundege, manager of the Andes Food Bank, over the summer, and discussed the possibility of providing healthy food for students then. This winter, as fuel and food prices went up, Joyce said, it became clear that it would be the perfect time.

“People have been getting laid off,” Joyce said, “and groceries aren’t cheap. So we wanted to send some healthy food home for the weekends to help out.”

Joyce said he connected Chakar with Brundege who, along with several other community volunteers, will be filling the brown bags and bringing them to the school. They won’t have to travel far, Joyce said, as the food bank is located across the street from the school in the Andes Presbyterian Church.

”We are happy to be able to work with the school to do this,” Brundege said. “It’s a nice opportunity for the children.”

Price Chopper in Delhi will be donating raisins for the bags, Joyce said, and Freshtown Foods in Margaretville will also donate food items.

The brown bags will be presented to the students before the end of the day on Friday, Chakar said, with Joyce, Brundege and elementary teachers passing them out. 

“It will be a good after-school treat,” Chakar said. “New York is made up, mostly, of small towns. This is an opportunity for one such small town to come together and help mold the future generation, working with the community to provide for the kids.”