It’s snack time at Purdy

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

District teams with Life 360 to offer snack to students

Most children like to end their academic day with a nice snack to help tide them over until dinner, but for some students, that snack, or possibly even their dinner, isn’t promised.

To help combat the issue of hunger in its district, Purdy school now offers a healthy snack to every student at the end of the school day. The snack is offered through Life 360 Community Services’ Monett site.

Mindi Gates, Purdy superintendent, said she was contacted in the first semester by Life 360 Community Services.

“I was told about the snack program and told it was something they could offer in our district,” she said. “Life 360 Community Services recently opened a branch in Monett and were able to reach out to us after that.”

Life 360 Community Services staff brings the snack to the school district each day to be distributed to students

“The snack itself can only be offered after the instructional day is over,” Gates said. “So, we have a short time before the students go home to give this snack.”

The students can either eat the snack on the school campus or take it home with them if they wish, however, it is not a backpack program food.

“The students get a cup of milk, veggies or fruit, some type of a grain, a carton of juice that is a fruit and vegetable blend and a cheese stick,” Gates said. “It is a nice snack for them that is healthy and hits most of the food groups.”

The students take what they want and leave what they don’t. The students are not forced to eat all of it.

“Life 360 doesn’t take back leftover snacks, so non-perishable items that are left over are collected by the NHS to be added into the backpack program,” Gates said. “Anything that is perishable we are able to offer to families that can use them.

“Once, we had an abundance of fruit snacks similar to apple sauce, and we were able to donate those to a local church that has a food pantry.”

The snack program started in February and so far has been successful.

“One teacher commented that since the snack is offered to every student, so no one feels embarrassed about taking the snack,” Gates said. “That helps mostly in the middle school and high school grades.”

The district makes the decision on which grade levels the snack will be offered to, and Purdy decided to offer it to all students kindergarten through twelfth grade.

“Life 360 crew deliver the snacks by 2 p.m. and the teachers simply just tally up how many students are in their class at the end of the day,” Gates said.

Drew Forsman, Life 360 Community Services Monett site director, said the funds used to offer the snack program comes from the Child and Adult Food Care Act through the federal government.

“Life 360 Community Services started 14 years ago and was based around the Life 360 church in Springfield,” he said. “Life 360 of southern Missouri helps 13,000 children per day.”

According to Forsman, one of the things that started Life 360 Community Services was working with foster children and families.

“A preschool was started a few years ago that has also been successful,” he said. “There is also a Jobs for Life program, which has had a 100 percent placement rate after graduation, and a Y gardens project.

“Some of those haven’t been brought to Monett yet, though there is a possibility to branch out there.”

As far as school programs, right now, nutrition services the main goal of Life 360 Community Services.

“It isn’t just a snack program,” Forsman said. “We also have assemblies to help teach the children to embrace a healthy life style. Right now, the Monett site services four area schools.”

During the 2019-2020 school year, Life 360 Community Services Monett site was helping 700 students in the Pierce City school district, and that number has grown to 2,000 this year.

“It doesn’t cost school districts anything to use this program,” Forsman said. “The school district just has to qualify and have a free or reduced lunch rate of 50 percent.”

Another part to the grant requires that the snack can only be offered after the instructional day is completed.

“There is about a 15-minute window to eat the snack at the school or take it home,” he said. “People would be shocked to know the number of children that don’t get a meal when they get home.”

Life 360 Community Services calls the snack a super snack, but it is classified as a meal through the USDA.

“People can send their left overs back, but we cannot count that as stock,” he said. “We would rather see that food stay in the community and be used by people who need it. We urge people to find the best purpose for left overs with their students and communities.”

For more information on how a school can qualify for this program, people may email a hunger relief advocate at miste@life360.org.

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