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Backpack Buddy program sees success in first year
Backpack Buddy program founder Samantha Kubly packs bags to be taken to the different schools before Christms break. To order a reprint of this photo, (Times photos: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - After over a year in operation, Parkside Elementary's Backpack Buddy program has become a resounding success.

The program, which provides food for elementary and middle school students from low-income families, served approximately 30 Parkside students after the program started in October of 2015. By April, that number increased to 110.

Now, the program helps 126 elementary students from more than 100 families at all three elementary schools in Monroe.

Samantha Kubly, program coordinator and school nurse for Parkside, said the program was received very well by the community and the student body.

"We're trying to reach those kids whose parents aren't around when they come home," Kubly said.

Each month, volunteers for the program pack non-perishable food items to be given in backpacks to participating students weekly. The food items - which include cereal, fresh fruit, cheese sticks and granola bars - are simple enough for children to prepare in the event that an adult is not present to prepare a meal.

In addition to the elementary and middle school students in the program, high school students with siblings in the program are also provided for, Kubly said.

Donors, including the Green County Food Pantry, Monroe Bible Church, Maple Leaf Cheese and many individual donors, represent the sole means of support for the Backpack Buddy program, Kubly said. No district funds are used.

The program costs approximately $2,000 per month, which is likely to increase as the program expands. Kubly said the program's aid to middle school students is not as extensive as she would prefer.

"There are about 30 kids at the middle school eligible for the program, but less than half of them are taking advantage of it," Kubly said.

Kubly said that some families decline help because of pride or a lack of recognition of their financial situation, or even a simple lack of awareness of the program. Because of this, teachers and counselors can recommend students to the program by observing their behaviors - in fact, the program started after teachers noticed students saving parts of their meals to eat at home later.

Kubly said that, while the program is strong, it cannot continue without consistent community support. Monetary donations can be made to the School District of Monroe and food items can be delivered to Parkside Elementary at any time.