CACH developed a plan to supplement the diets of Ely school children who were suffering from lack of food at home over the long three-day school weekends at Ely Schools (Ely is a four-day week school). They developed a plan to pack child-friendly foods in large plastic bags that teachers could privately insert in students’ backpacks on Thursdays, while the students were out of the room. The teachers determined how many food bags were needed by their class and submitted the number. That way the students receiving the extra food remained anonymous to their school mates, as well as to everyone involved in CACH.
The program started by feeding 35 children a week. Currently over 50% of the Ely school population qualifies for the free or reduced hot lunch program. By the last week of May 2019, CACH was feeding 215 children per week. The cost of each of the food packages is about $10 or about $2,150 per week for all of White Pine County.
Buying the foods, storing them until needed, packing them and getting them delivered to the schools where they are needed and in the proper numbers requires funding, logistics and labor. The program is entirely supported by donations and grants–of money, time and other resources. April emphasized that praying has been a constant necessity over the seven years of the program, and they are certain that Margaret, who has passed on, is joining in. There have been many fundraisers, from spaghetti feeds, local holiday fashion shows, and silent and live auction events, as well as individual donations. Every dollar raised goes into buying food for the program.
As soon as he heard of the plan, the priest at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Richard “Red” Sims, volunteered the undercroft of the church as CACH’s location. The owner of Anderson’s Foodtown grocery, Lee Anderson, offered to order the food through his store at cost. Then came the need to move the food to the church, and Scott Laity, manager of Wheeler Machinery volunteered his time and equipment to move it every time an order came in. Recently as the program grew, CACH moved to the Oddfellows Hall for the monthly packing. Ely Elks Lodge #1469 volunteers to load up the backpacks of food and deliver them to every school they need to go to. The teachers at the schools make sure the packs of food are getting to the students who need them and going home with them.
CACH has “Angels” who pack up the bags of food at “monthly packing parties.” They have standards. They use every inch available in each bag, placing each item in its specific place. Each Angel has a station and knows their task well. New volunteers are welcome, but the Angels oversee to be sure all are perfectly packed.
Students at the Steptoe Valley High School volunteer to help. Some of these kids, who are “at-risk” students, never had a role model, or an adult who would take the time to listen. The Angels, who are mostly retired persons, took an interest in the high schoolers they met at the packing parties, checking in on the kids once a month. The kids now had someone who would listen and talk with them, someone who saw them as capable and who would provide a reference on a job application. Last year the kids asked one of the Angels to give their graduation speech. The mentoring and interaction were not planned but happened because of CACH’s community work efforts.
Students receiving the supplemental foods have submitted numerous letters of appreciation telling how the extra food makes the weekends and their school work go better, making up for meals they did not get at home. They also told how they were able to share with their brothers and sisters.
Committee Against Childhood Hunger (CACH) of Ely is a 501c3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible. Donations to the Ely CACH program may be sent to Susan Keough, Chairman of the Committee Against Child Hunger, 1545 Mill St., Ely, Nevada 89301. Please make checks payable to CACH.