Getting $10,000 for their POWER Pack program was a big deal for the Marana School District, but when an additional $5,000 was donated, it was even better.
Back in January Trico Electric Cooperative awarded MUSD $10,000 in POWER Grant funds to support the POWER Pack program, which provides students who qualify for free or reduced lunches at Picture Rocks, Desert Winds, Estes and Roadrunner elementary schools a backpack full of nutritious snacks for the weekends.
“It is important to give back to the community and even more so since everyone was hit hard by the economy,” said Romi Carrell Wittman, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Trico.
A few months later Carrell Wittman applied to CoBank to have another $5,000 in matching funds and on July 15 those funds were awarded.
“I didn’t tell anyone at the district what I was doing, because I did not want to disappoint them,” said Carrell Wittman.
The POWER Packs program was started in 2009 and has relied on grants from Trico to succeed.
“The program was made possible because of a Trico POWER grant awarded to the Marana Unified School District in collaboration with the Marana Community Food Bank and the MUSD Food Services Department,” explained MUSD’s Director of Student Services Cindy Ruich.
“In order to sustain the Power Pack program the Director of Student Services has written and been awarded Tico POWER grants each year.”
Ruich said that the district has also reached out to the community to help support the program.
In 2009 the program started with about 60 students. This past school year about 170 students were part of the program and thanks to the additional grant, over 200 students were provided food during June.
“The POWER Pack program has been extremely successful in providing students in need nutritious food over the weekends throughout the school year,” said Ruich.
Both Ruich and Carrell Williams said there is a big concern about lower income students getting adequate nutrition, and even any food at all, when they are away from school.
“Many children who receive free or reduced meals at school are left without adequate nutrition and are chronically hungry on the weekend and during holiday breaks,” explained Ruich.
“We don’t know if they are eating at all on weekends,” added Carrell Williams.
According to the district, studies have shown that participating children are sick less often, have fewer stomach aches and are more eager and ready to learn.
“We have seen grades improve and have noticed that the children on this program are attending school more regularly,” said Ruich. “We are forever grateful to the collaborative efforts of those who help to make this program possible for our students.”