Many individuals and organizations in the Stockton community come together as one to support Tiger Tasters, a weekend backpack program serving hungry children in our local schools in Stockton. At last count, taken at our community meeting Wednesday, July 8, more than 125 individuals, churches and organizations pulled together to make this program happen.

At the community meeting, volunteers came together to sign up for the up-coming academic year and to thank Nancy Smith for her tireless efforts over the past five years in making this program a success. Since February 2010, Nancy has been a force of nature in keeping the program running. From handling the finances, to ordering food, to organizing volunteers, Nancy kept the Tiger Tasters machine running smoothly. Sadly, Nancy will be moving to Springfield. She will be missed, and it was fun to see her publicly thanked for her efforts.

Shannon Snow with Stockton schools, and Annette Weber of Stockton Head Start provided motivation to volunteers, as they described the importance of the weekend food backpack program to their efforts at school. As Snow related, children cannot learn when they are hungry. Weber expressed gratitude for the program coming back to head start, where it started five years ago. There were several years where the program was offered in Stockton schools only, and unfortunately some children were left out if they did not have siblings in school.

With head start moving into a twice-a-day program, Weber said she personally will be reviewing the children who will be participating in Tiger Tasters. Tiger Tasters serves children who are identified as in-need by their teachers, counselors, bus drivers and/or administrators. Not every child who receives free or reduced lunch participates in the program; only those identified as in-need by the school personnel. No tax dollars are used to fund this program. Tiger Tasters is grateful for the support of these school personnel; they are excellent stewards of the time and money dedicated to the program. 

Fortunately, several people in the Stockton community stepped up to fill in the spots, which will be left by Smith. Carla Griffin will now handle the finances and reconcile the accounts. Brent Drake will handle ordering of food. Betty Thomas took on developing the weekly menus for both Stockton schools and head start.

To pull off the program, groups and individuals signed up as follows: 

Thank you notes: Sue Webb 

Prepping groups: Aug. 31, American Legion Auxiliary, Becky Johnson, Shirlee Schroder and Therese Kral; Oct. 5, Stockton High School Student Council; Oct. 26, Neat Griffith and Betty Johnson; and January and February, Doris Thayer and Refuge. 

Packing groups: September, St. Peter’s the Apostle Catholic Church, Kral; October, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Janice Hendricks; November, retired teachers and National Honor Society as backup; December, PEO; January, First Southern Baptist Church, Alisa Bough; February, Presbyterian Church, Janet Cumpton; March, Stockton Christian Church, Linda Montgomery; and April, Stockton Lake Sertoma Club, Kelly Roy. 

Delivery: Elks, Ray Wimsatt; September backup, Becky Johnson; and December backup, Neale and Fran Johnson. 

Shelf stocking: Stockton Student Council and The Refuge. 

We appreciate the many churches, groups and individuals who generously donate money to Tiger Tasters. Last year, the program served between 40-50 students in Stockton schools every week. An additional 29 children were served as Tiger Tasters reached down to head start. This number includes siblings of the participating head start students. Every dollar counts as the program is estimated to require $19,350 for the coming academic year. Money is used for the purchase of food or postage as necessary for mailing in Best Choice labels. No money is used for any administrative overhead of any nature.

The cost of a three-day weekend backpack currently is estimated to be $11.25. So, a donation of $45 feeds a child for a month, and $400 will feed a child for the school year. Given the number of students served (70 plus) for the past academic year, there will be no reserve funds past the 2015-16 school year.

Donations to the program may be made to the Stockton Community Foundation Hunger Drive — note Tiger Tasters on the check to ensure it gets to the program and mail to Community Foundation of the Ozarks, P.O. Box 8960, Springfield, MO 65801. Checks also can be delivered to Stockton United Methodist Church and the check will be deposited for the benefit of the program. Again, put Tiger Tasters on the memo line. If you would like more information about the program, or would like to donate time or money, contact Angela Drake at 276-1218.

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