Blessings in a Backpack NDN

Every student deserves to have regular meals. That’s what Christina Rutjens believes.

As the coordinator of Elkhorn Valley Schools’ chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, she makes sure teachers can discreetly put food in backpacks of students who might not otherwise have food over the weekend, including shelf-stable milk and six other kid-friendly food items.

This local chapter of a national organization started in September 2017, inspired by successful programs in Norfolk and other smaller communities.

“I talked to some teachers and administrators and asked if there was a need, ... so we got a program going,” she said.

Rutjens’ role as coordinator is to raise funds, order food and deliver it to the school, where it is passed on to students in preschool through 12th grade. To determine if a student qualifies for the program, the organization sends out letters to all students at the beginning of the year and maintains a confidential list. It served 16 students last year.

Food security is an issue people might not realize is so pervasive in smaller communities like Tilden, she said.

“I think in general, in rural communities, food insecurity is a big issue,” she said. “We don’t have resources larger cities may have like a food pantry. For kids to actually get somewhere to get help is not logistically or economically practical.”

The Norfolk Area United Way helps the organization carry out its mission by providing about a third of its funding this year. Rutjens is grateful for the boost it provides, which allows all students who apply for the program to be served.

“Nourishment is one of your basic needs and children don’t have any way to provide that for themselves,” she said. “Thank you to the United Way for helping support that.”

Rutjens said she knows Blessings in a Backpack makes a difference when a teacher takes time to thank her.

“Just having a teacher come up to me and tell me, ‘Thank you so much for doing this, this is helping my students so much.’ I’ve had that happen different times,” she said. “That way you know what you’re doing is really helping someone out.”

In other news

Now before you get all salty and say, “High School isn’t going to be that hard,” put that sentence right back in your mouth because I said the same thing and, spoiler alert, high school is hard. I know you don’t want to listen to an upper classman, but let me drop some advice onto you.

Graduation is less than 200 days away, and as I think about moving on to the next chapter of my life, I’m starting to take a look at what it was like to be a freshman.

Freshman: We all hate them, but we were all them. I was recently a freshman; only last year. But in the few months since then, I think I’ve learned a few things. I don’t know whether I’m a better or worse person since freshman year, but I sure am a person. There’s a lot of things that freshm…

My name is Anna Wooldrik, I am a senior in high school, and I plan on attending college this fall. This is my last year with my family, taking part in high school events, and living in my home town of West Point. As I look back on my last four years, I have changed dramatically.

When they say high school is the fastest four years of your life, they weren’t lying. It feels like just yesterday I was a shy freshman, and now I’m an outgoing senior. It’s crazy how much I have changed over the four years, but there have been lots of other changes, too. My friends and fami…

Freshman year is both an exciting and difficult time for many students. It comes with many more responsibilities and harder classes. Many students struggle to manage their time wisely. Making sure you are paying attention in class, managing your time wisely, and getting enough sleep are the …

One piece of advice I would offer to current freshman is to embrace your true self. In today’s world, teens constantly feel a need to please everyone with whom they interact. At any stage in your life, there will be people who try to change who you are. In reality, no one is “normal,” and at…

Brief capsules of Wayne State College cross country, Wayne State College volleyball, Northeast Community College and Wayne State College men's and women's basketball, and Norfolk unified bowling.