Programs Help Students and Families Facing Food Insecurity

November 24, 2020

During the holiday season, families gather around the table to share traditions, make new memories and break bread. Holidays can be a stressful time for families and students facing food insecurity. While many are sharing a meal, for some students the next meal is not guaranteed. Moorhead Area Public Schools provides extra meals and snacks to students in need in partnership with Great Plains Food Bank and donations from community members.

According to a local survey taken by the Great Plains Foodbank in 2018, of people who are facing food instability, 37 percent are children. The Great Plains Food Bank serves Moorhead Elementary schools through its Food Backpack program which provides weekend meals for students. The food is provided through monetary donations to the Great Plains Food Bank. Each week, they work with area schools to determine how many students need meals and transport the food bags to schools for distribution. Each food bag includes shelf stable milk and juice, entrees, breakfast items and snacks. There are no income requirements to receive food. If a family needs a little bit of help, they can use this program. 

Backpack Program

This program began in the Fargo-Moorhead area in 2010 after area schools saw a common need across school districts. Eleven founding program partners, including Robert Asp Elementary, came together to see how they could collaborate with the food bank to reduce food insecurity for kids. 

Over the past few years the need has grown, and the backpack program has expanded by 20 percent. “We used to have a goal of providing 1,400 bags a week and now we are in the 1,800 a week range, and climbing because of COVID,” says Jenae Meske, child and hunger program manager at Great Plains Food Bank.

Students across the district enjoy the backpack program and benefit from it. Social worker Hilda Cervantes is impressed by students who are advocating for themselves. “I had a third grade student come up to me and remind me not to forget their food,” Cervantes says. “They look forward to receiving extra food and snacks each week.” Cervantes has worked at Moorhead Area Public Schools for several years, but this is her first year as a social worker at Dorothy Dodds Elementary. In her new role, she has reached out and provided information to staff, parents and students.

Meske commends Moorhead Area Public School staff for their dedication. “I am so impressed with new staff learning about the program. I have had many staff reach out for extra information.” 

Spud Closet Program

At the middle and high school level, Moorhead Area Public Schools finds additional ways to help students in need. Joni Hubrig, social worker at Moorhead High School, says staff and students created a “Spud Closest”, which is stocked with food, hygiene items and basic necessities. Social workers also bring students to the emergency food bank or community pop-up food events as needed. 

Hubrig has worked with many students over the past six years at Moorhead Area Public Schools. She remembers a student that was temporarily living with another family. That student felt she was taking food away from others in the home. She reached out and asked if there were any resources available for food. “This story speaks so much to how food is such a basic need,” Hubrig says. 

Another student who recently reached out and asked what the criteria was to receive food from a pop-up food drive event. “This student wasn’t someone who was on my radar for having food insecurities,” Hubrig explains. “It’s a great reminder that you never know what a family is going through.”

Food for Thought Program

Moorhead Legacy Education Foundation's Food For Thought campaign is part of Giving Hearts Day, co-hosted by Dakota Medical Foundation, Impact Institute and Alex Stern Family Foundation. Moorhead Legacy Education Foundation wants students in Moorhead Area Public Schools to receive milk/snack break and meals when their families are struggling to make ends meet, as studies show that well-fed students are focused students. To date, the Legacy Foundation has distributed over $30,000 to Moorhead Area Public Schools to cover the milk and snack break of students in need of assistance. Most recently, Moorhead Legacy Education Foundation was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Alex Stern Family Foundation, and a grant award of $3,000 from West Central Initiative's Resiliency Fund is furthering the reach of the Food For Thought program during the pandemic. Donations to fund this effort can be made at 

Adult Meal Grant

In addition to many programs benefitting students, beginning, Tuesday, Nov. 10, Moorhead Area Public Schools will provide free meals for adults along with student meals during scheduled student distribution. Meals will also be delivered to several low income or senior living centers that do not provide meals to residents. These meals are a result of an Incentive Grant funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund CARES Act through the State of Minnesota Office of the Governor and will be provided through Dec. 30, 2020.

The meal bags will include both breakfast and lunch. Any adult is eligible to receive a meal. Superintendent Dr. Brandon Lunak says, “The Moorhead Area Public Schools team has done an outstanding job of ensuring that every child receives nutritious meals during hybrid and distance learning models. We are excited to be able to support the community by expanding the program to adults through the holiday season.”

Every day, people in our community are going through food insecurity. If you would like to help others by donating funds or your time at the Great Plains Food Bank, contact Ceili Haugtvedt, at 701.476.9110 or If you would like to donate food items to Horizon Middle School or Moorhead High School contact Danelle Klaman at 218-284-7300 and Joni Hubrig at 218-284-2300. Together, we can help others in need.