Starting the School Year Right: Relief Options for Kids in Low Income Settings
Friday, August 25, 2023
The start of a new school year can bring added stress to families, especially those experiencing poverty.
In North Dakota, community-level assistance is available to help foster a successful school year. Community Action Agencies provide access to a number of relief programs. While many are similar, some offices have additional ways to help those struggling to get by.
Jeannie Kraft, finance director for the Community Action Program-Bismarck Region, reminded families in need of their "Backpacks for Kids" initiative, in which students who qualify are given bags of food to get them through the weekends and holidays during the school year.
"It was the idea that kids were not having enough food over the weekends [and then] coming to school on Monday starving and wanting to eat," Kraft explained. "The backpack program is actually food items; kid friendly, something they can make."
Food choices include macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The program serves more than 2,000 kids in a 10-county region. Those eligible are identified by school counselors, who then request more donations. Meanwhile, offices around the state help with things like rent and utility bills, and if a family qualifies, they can contact their local action agency to apply.
No matter the program, Kraft emphasized seeking out help, if needed, sets the pathway for stability.
"Having a home to live in that's got windows, and a furnace, and running water, and food to eat and clothes to wear," Kraft outlined. "It is huge."
She added it can help with a student's confidence as they get settled into the new school year.
Community Action Agencies in North Dakota are now beginning to help families sign up for assistance with internet expenses. Officials said it keeps students connected to the classroom for homework, and during snow days or holiday breaks. Some 19,000 North Dakota children live in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's most recent data.
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