Second Harvest’s Bite2Go has expanded exponentially since it began in 2008 as the Backpack program. It now serves more than 4,200 kids in dozens of schools throughout Washington and Idaho.
Bite2Go combines the effort of Second Harvest, At The Core and community partners like churches, clubs, businesses and schools to give students weekend meals throughout the school year. These organizations help pay for weekend food kits and volunteering labor and transportation to put kits together and deliver them to target schools.
Formerly only at elementary schools, Bite2Go is now a pilot program at three area high schools. Students at Mead, Lewis and Clark and Mount Spokane high schools began distributions this year, said Chris Sloan, donor relations developer with Second Harvest.
High-school Bite2Go, or Bite2Go XL, is similar to the elementary school program, where kids pick up bags of non-perishable, portable meals and snacks for the weekend. Portions will be larger to accommodate higher caloric needs of older students, and the pantries will be mostly run by student groups, school civic clubs like the ASB, or as senior projects. A faculty advisor will oversee each project to provide stability.
Several new organizations have agreed to sponsor students at the schools during the pilot projects, as well as existing Bite2Go donors, Sloan said. Food distributions will be organized by student volunteers.
“Students within a school are going to be serving and feeding other students,” he said. Referrals will come from school staff and will be confidential. “We want the staff to refer kids. They’ll be on the front lines.”
So far, students use a paper form to inventory their pantries and let Second Harvest know when their supplies are running low, but Sloan said eventually he hopes the pantries will move to an electronic inventory system.
Students get to choose what they want in their bags, picking from a variety of non-perishable items they can prepare with entry-level cooking skills and with or without access to a full kitchen, like tuna, chili, peanut butter, canned fruit and vegetables, cereal and crackers.
Chantal Czarapata, marketing instructor and DECA advisor at Lewis and Clark High School, helps a group of 12 students put bags of food together in a hallway near her classroom.
“I think there’s more of a need,” she said of the new program. “Every week we’ve been getting a few more.”
DECA, founded in 1946, is a national nonprofit with chapters in high school and colleges throughout the world. Activities prepare students for careers in business, leadership and marketing, among others. Czarapata said staff at Lewis and Clark has been trying to spread the word while still keeping it anonymous. They’ve been working with school guidance counselors and other administration officials to identify students in need.
Jeff Naslund, an administrator at Mead High School, said staff welcomed Bite2Go XL, and many of them are working with student clubs to get the new program off the ground. The first deliveries went out in late October.
“Our staff, students, and community are incredibly generous. The families benefiting from Bite2Go have the potential to fall through the cracks, which is unacceptable here,” Naslund said. “We believe all people are worthy of love and belonging Bite2Go XL is one of the best ways for us to prove it. The program has provided us with an opportunity to empower many different facets of our community. Bold love is hard, but always worth it.”
Dakota Magnum-Turner, 17, helps run Bite2Go XL at Lewis and Clark High School. Dakota moved to Spokane from California when his parents divorced, and said going back and forth between their households gave him a unique perspective on poverty. “I get to see both ways of living,” he said. “I go to a house where eating out is a consistent thing, and a house where we have to be very careful about what we buy.”
Dakota began volunteering with Project Hope in summer 2016, and working with the nonprofit got him interested in further activism. Because of his personal experience with poverty, he knows the long-term impact of not having enough food, and wanted to do something about it for other students at LC.
“There’s a direct correlation between food insecurity and how much education you get, and what kind of job you have,” he said. Once people have a steady source of food, “they can focus on the bigger things; they can pull themselves out.”
Dakota, who’s active in LC’s DECA club and state-ranked debate team, isn’t sure what he wants to do next. “It changes every three months,” he said. He’s considered a career in politics, the armed services, the law or government, but one thing is certain – he wants to continue making a difference in the lives of others.