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Backpack Buddies provides snacks for kids
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A new collaboration is gearing up to make sure local children are not going hungry when they leave school and are home on the weekends.

Known as Backpack Buddies, the initiative provides snacks and easy-to-serve food to children of low-income families in Dawson County.

"The food will be items the kids can eat without having to prepare it, stuff they can snack on," said Tony Wooten with the Dawson County Sheriff's Office. "It's not going to be stuff they'll have to make.

"The kids will take home the book bags on Fridays and bring them back on Mondays."

The idea emerged last year after a resource officer spotted an elementary school student eating from a trash can at the school.

"We've had both our resource officers and our school staff that have seen kids eating out of the trash can last year," Wooten said. "If there are kids that need food, we're going to try to do what we can to meet that need."

Funded entirely by donations, the new program is receiving support from the community.

"We've already started to receive donations and now we're talking with the churches and they'll hopefully be partnering with us," said Wooten, adding that the backpacks were also donated.

"People have asked me what kind of food they can donate. We're working to try to purchase food through food banks, so the dollar will go farther than it would just buying food at local grocery stores, so we're hoping to be able to stretch that dollar as far as we can."

Donations can be made to Dawson County Family Connection, which is serving as the fiscal agent for the program. Director Nancy Stites said similar programs have been successful elsewhere.

"There are other communities that are doing this across the state ... and most of the time churches are involved. And it's working just beautifully," she said. "It's just overall positive results when you aren't hungry, especially for the young kids.

"Nutrition is monumental in their development, so if we can give them just that right there, what a gift you're giving them."

The initial 50 book bags will begin going home with students, who were nominated by counselors and approved by their parents to receive the assistance, this month.