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Learning by giving back

A St. Louis University satellite class meeting in St. Francois County is raising funds for an area program that provides weekend backpacks filled with kid-friendly food for children who might not otherwise have much, if anything, to eat.

The 14-member “communication in small groups” class was divided into three groups, with each instructed to come up with a project to help the community — and then find a way to make it happen.

Each group came up with a potential project and then the class as a whole selected one of the three options for their project.

“We decided to hold a trivia night to raise money for Brenden’s Friday Backpack Program,” class member Kathy Moore said.

The class-planned trivia night will take place March 17 at Central High School in Park Hills.

“The room has space for 150 people and every spot is already filled,” said Moore. “We’ll also have a silent auction and 50/50 drawing that evening.”

She said St. Louis University has placed a box on campus to receive donations for the backpack program and several of the instructors will be participating in the trivia night.

The Friday Backpack Program was started in area schools by Vicki Tamboli, a school volunteer in Festus who became concerned when she saw students she suspected received little if any healthy food to eat over weekends. It began in several school districts in Jefferson County and expanded into North County schools the weekend before Christmas break. School counselors identify the neediest children — children who they believe are going without food at home. These children depend on the school’s free or reduced lunch and breakfast programs for their meals.

“It was designed to not only help feed the hungry children of our communities, but also to improve their school academics and their health,” said Tamboli. “Some of these children will put extra ketchup, mustard and mayo packets from school in their pockets to save for a meal at another time. Some go without food from Friday lunch, or the last day of the week, until they return to school for Monday breakfast.”

Tamboli said this takes away from calories and nutrition that children need to thrive.

“Studies have shown children who have food insecurities, such as food deprivation, achieve less at school than their counterparts,” she said.

Tamboli added that the program is designed to “level the playing field.”

“We receive donated food items from different sources such as local civic groups, Boy Scouts and local churches,” she said.

Tamboli said each of the plastic grocery bags are packed with three meals plus a snack for every day that school will not be in session. The items used include Pop Tarts, beanie-weenies (pop top cans), spaghetti (small pop top cans), fruit juice, fruit cups, cereal (single serving size), granola bars, cereal bars, pretzels (single serving size), apple sauce and 100-calorie snack packs (single serving size). While they accept food donations, they must be non-perishable and kid friendly. No out-of-date items or those needing refrigeration will be accepted. They can be dropped off at participating schools or you can call Tamboli at 314-566-4949.

On Monday night, class members will give their final presentation on the project.

“We’ll be making our presentation in class before the trivia night even takes place,” said Moore. “We’ll be telling what we accomplished and how it all went — our ups and downs.”

What she can say without question is that the class had a great time putting the event together, and all were pleased they could help a worthy project like Brenden’s Friday Backpack Program. 

Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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