Members of the Sack Supper Club don’t meet for a meal. Instead, they tie on aprons to prepare more than 7,500 a day.
The dues are minimal: $20 a month to fund a program that provides an evening meal for children who would otherwise not have one.
The impact on children in need is far from minimal, just ask Bridget Clark Whitney, executive director of Kids’ Food Basket. “Poverty is a complex problem,” she said. “Feeding a kid is not.”
Clark Whitney was studying at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids when she started an internship with a local woman to hatch a program that would provide a nutritious, take-home evening meal to kids in need. The woman was Mary K. Hoodhood; her idea came after a local principal, Mary Ann Prisichenko, witnessed children digging for food scraps in an elementary school dumpster in Grand Rapids.
Hoodhood made a call asking for help, and then made another call, and another. She found there were no programs she could turn to.
“There was not an effective or efficient way to consistently provide food to children in need,” Clark Whitney said. In 2003 Hoodhood, with the help of friends, family and her intern began a grassroots campaign to fill the unmet need. And they haven’t stopped.
Volunteers bag meals, collect foodstuffs and campaign. They also decorate the sacks that hold the suppers, making them nearly as special as the contents. Sack Suppers reach children of kindergarten age through 12 years at schools where 70 percent or more of students receive free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch. Kids’ Food Basket has three locations: Holland, Grand Rapids and Muskegon. On average, one in five children in Michigan are affected by hunger.
On a wall in the Sack Supper assembly room near Clark Whitney’s Grand Rapids office, a “Sack Tracker” sign boasts over one million Sack Suppers bagged since July 1, 2015. The program is having a health and behavioral impact. The schools where Sack Suppers are supplied report less truancy, less sickness and less acting out.
“Each day we help to eliminate one poverty barrier,” Clark Whitney said. “Hunger.”