Anna Krahn, left, and Ann Halloran stand in front of food collected for the Kingsland Community Food Program.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Anna Krahn, left, and Ann Halloran stand in front of food collected for the Kingsland Community Food Program. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
TGIF.

Thank goodness it's Friday.

Unless you're a kid and the fridge is empty.

But also, thank goodness for Anna Krahn and the members of churches in the Kingsland school district, for there is hope for Friday afternoon refrigerators - hope, in the form of the Kingsland Community Food Program.

Krahn, who belongs to Faith United Methodist Church (FUMC), a stone's throw from the high school and elementary school building, is coordinator of the ecumenical supplemental food program that began early last month to provide food for students to tide them over until the bus picks them up on Monday.

Bags filled with donated food items discreetly distributed to participating students contain enough for two breakfasts, lunches and snacks and supplemental food for each child in the home, and the food in them is easy for little hands to make on their own - peanut butter for sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, even Girl Scout cookies for dessert - and make all the difference in the world for students who don't "TGIF."

According to information distributed to students' families, this program is part of the backpack program through the Channel One Food Bank Backpack Program. The Backpack Program was started during the 2010-2011 school year after Channel One was approached by a church that wanted to help feed elementary-aged school children at two schools. That partnership grew into the Backpack Program that served 10 elementary schools and 729 students during the first year of the program. The Backpack Program has rapidly grown to serving 20 schools - 17 elementary schools and three middle schools - and nearly 1,500 students.

Krahn inquired of the school's administration whether there was a need and an interest in starting a weekend food program in the Kingsland district, and she related, "I asked when the idea came about, and in the past, it's been done in churches, and the school gave us free reign to go about it."

Kingsland Elementary School social worker Ann Halloran commented on why the school district agreed to participate when Krahn introduced the opportunity. "I think this is more something we wanted to do under the assumption that there's a need for it all the time. There's a high need for free and reduced lunches."

That need for free and reduced lunches translates into the possibility that students who go home on Friday might have to wait until Monday morning's school breakfast or lunch to feel sated.

Kingsland Elementary School Principal Chris Priebe encouraged parents whose children might qualify for free and reduced lunches to do so, even if they have doubts about whether or not they actually do, and to consider participation in the Kingsland Community Food Program if they feel it might be beneficial.

Any child enrolled in Kingsland Public Schools, from grades kindergarten through 12, is eligible to receive weekly bags of food, but all information is kept confidential.

Krahn noted that the school is the only one that has the names. Through the school, the church is told that there's a need for extra bags that week. She pointed out that while the program distributes food to children in school, it does not replace or compete with local food shelves' efforts to assist families, asserting that before FUMC and its partner churches embarked on the mission to collect food those involved in organizing contacted the food shelves' managers and made arrangements to cooperate with them.

The food they collected for the program includes cereal, fruit cups, fresh fruit, fruit snacks, granola and cereal bars, 100 percent fruit juice, low-fat shelf stable milk, raisins, seeds and nuts, pudding cups, beans and franks, peanut butter and shelf stable microwavable entrees.

Priebe hopes that the program is well-received by both participants and donors, and expressed his appreciation to Krahn and area congregations for recognizing an ongoing need.

"We have a need, they see the need, they fulfill it," he said. "We can't thank Mrs. Krahn enough. It's unified congregations in our area, and we hope that the community members rally to help support it and lift each other up. Without Mrs. Krahn, we thought it would be a great idea, one that we talked about maybe doing next year."

Donations may be dropped off at the Kingsland high, middle or elementary offices or at Faith United Methodist Church, 617 Maple Lane in Spring Valley. Those who wish to sign up for the program may do so by contacting the school and requesting a registration form.

For more information, contact Kingsland Elementary School Principal Priebe at priebe.chris@kingsland.k12.mn.us or at (507) 346-7276 ext. 1010, preschool through sixth grade social worker Halloran at halloran.ann@kingsland.k12.mn.us or 346-7276 ext. 2004, seventh through 12th grade social worker Kay Haugerud at haugerud.kay@kingsland.k12.mn.us or 346-7276 ext. 3004, or Krahn at krahn.anna@gmail.com.