Friends feeding friends on track for August start

Friends Feeding Friends board members Heather and Greg Haas look through potential logos designed by Josh Wirth. The new nonprofit is on track to start operations in August.

The early days of local nonprofit Friends Feeding Friends haven’t exactly gone according to plan, board member Heather Haas said.

Despite some unexpected twists and turns, the organization is still on track to start handing out weekly meals to food-insecure Johnson County students once school starts on Aug. 22, Haas said.

Friends Feeding Friends was launched earlier this year by Haas, a Cloud Peak Elementary School counselor, in response to the number of food-insecure children in Johnson County.

Food insecurity is defined by Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, as “a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.” According to Feeding America’s 2017 Map the Meal Gap study, in Johnson County, roughly 270 children under 18 years old experience food insecurity.

The goal of Friends Feeding Friends is to provide weekly meals to approximately 200 food-insecure students in the Johnson County School District.

When Haas last talked with the Bulletin in late April, her organization had two priorities: finding a fiscal agent or “umbrella organization” that Friends Feeding Friends could operate under until it became its own 501(c)(3) and finding a program coordinator who would have a variety of duties.

In recent months, the organization has chosen to become its own 501(c)(3) right away, Haas said. The organization now has its own bank account and a local lawyer is helping the board through the paperwork, Haas said.

“We decided it would be best and quickest if we moved forward on our own,” Haas said. “With that said, I could definitely see us partnering with community organizations like the Community Resource Center in the future if needed.”

The search for a program coordinator has stalled, Haas said. There has not been a single applicant.

“I think this is just where we are in our community right now,” Haas said. “Everybody wants to help, but nobody has the time or resources to take on a big project like this full time. So the board has been divvying up the work and moving forward without a program coordinator for now. We weren’t going to let that roadblock keep us from our mission.”

The organization’s primary focus right now is fundraising. Haas estimates that one weekend’s worth of food for one child could cost as little as $6. A weekend’s worth of food for 200 kids could cost $1,200 and a year’s worth could cost upwards of $62,000.

Haas said the meals could be paid for through a combination of grant funding and community donations. So far, the organization has been primarily focused on grants, including grants from the Food Bank of the Rockies, which Haas hopes to have in place later this month.

National nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack has agreed to partner with Friends Feeding Friends for the 2018-19 school year. Blessings in a Backpack will contribute “snack packs” filled with a variety of nonperishable foods including cereal, applesauce and meat sticks to 200 local kids on a weekly basis.

“Obviously, that’s not a proper meal,” Haas said. “But for kids struggling with hunger, those snacks make a huge difference.”

What the organization needs now is funding that can be used to purchase at least one weekly meal for local students, Haas said.

The organization will hold a fundraising event at some point in August, Haas said. To donate now, send funds to P.O. Box 314. It costs roughly $312 to provide a year’s worth of food for one student.

The organization will need other kinds of help once the school year begins, Haas said. To help sort or deliver food to local schools, contact Haas at hhaas@jcsd1.us.

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