Weekend hunger-relief program Loveland Rotary KidsPak is working to provide more food to more children this year than ever before.
The program works to provide nutritious food bags worth up to six meals to students of families within the Thompson School District. They are a Loveland Rotary project operating under the Loveland Rotary Foundation that provides students with scholarships. KidsPak has 13 delivery routes within the district where their volunteers come pick up the bags and deliver them to the schools.
“We have no junk in our bags. It is all nutritious food, shelf-stable milk, cereal, pasta, spaghetti sauce, chicken, tuna, and much more,” said Tom Carrigan, Executive Director of KidsPak. “We have no names of the students that receive the KidsPak bags, each school each week goes on our website and tells us how many bags they need, and that is all we want to know,” Tom said.
KidsPak began in the Spring of 2009, serving 34 students within 3 schools. In 2017 KidsPak distributed more than 20,000 bags to children.
To this day, KidsPak has no paid staff, relying on the help from community volunteers to make their mission happen. Today, they serve roughly 36 schools, including early childhood, elementary, middle school, and high schools within Thompson School District, with the help of approximately 200 volunteers who contributed nearly 24,000 volunteer hours in 2020.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, KidsPak would meet on Wednesday Mornings at the Food Bank for Larimer County with about 60 volunteers who would pack around 500 – 600 bags. Now, they have had to follow county health rules, which limited the number of people within the foo bank to 20 people.
They also took precautions, including having everyone sign in on a sheet with their contact information, have their temperature taken, packed bags one person per table to limit contact, and required everyone volunteering to wear a mask and gloves. As the pandemic has caused many issues, including food insecurity, KidsPak has worked hard to nearly triple the number of bags they packed and provided.
“In 2020, we spent $184,000 on food and distributed 27,508 food bags which totaled a little over 132,000 pounds of food that went to homes,” said Tom. “That is way off the chart in the previous ten years as the need is there, and so many families have been affected, so you have got to plan to do twice as much as you did,” Tom said.
KidsPak also works with the Loveland Library, which distributed bags over the summer and fall of last year, sending home 300 bags each month. Families can go to the library six days a week and grab a KidsPak bag out of the lobby without any questions asked.
KidsPak has also received quality beef sticks made of chuck and brisket at no charge from Beef Sticks for Backpacks, a non-profit that aims to provide high protein beef sticks into kids backpack programs statewide. The beef sticks began production at the Colorado State University (CSU) Agriculture Building nearly two and a half months ago and are now being given to backpack programs including Weld County’s backpack program, Larimer County’s backpack program, and aim to be distributed to Food Bank of the Rockies at no charge as well as backpack programs in the Denver area.
This year KidsPak aims to provide reliability and more bags for students and families through several grants that will give them the financial capacity to buy food and make sure it is available every week. Tom understands that in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new year will require adaptation to continue their work each day.
“We have already changed our schedule five times during 2020 based upon what the school district is doing,” said Tom. “We have to be ready to change again,” Tom said.
For more information regarding KidsPak, visit: https://www.lovelandrotarykidspak.org