31 Backpacks nonprofit expanding to Baraga County schools

31 Backpacks provides food to children of low-income families in the Copper Country.
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 7:54 PM EST
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BARAGA, Mich. (WLUC) - Children of low-income families are usually eligible to receive free or reduced meals at school.

But food may not be enough at home during weekends, holiday breaks and school closures especially due to the pandemic.

That’s where the nonprofit, 31 Backpacks comes in.

And their coverage of support is growing from schools in the Keweenaw now into Baraga County -- where average household income also falls below the state average.

“We have been reaching out to them since spring 2020 and we felt now is the time. We have certainly figured out the logistics of making that happen,” said 31 Backpacks Vice President Melissa Maki.

“Really going to enjoy them. They’re so hard-working -- and all of their volunteers. It’s all volunteered, none of them are getting paid,” said Baraga Area Schools Superintendent Richard Sarau.

And backed by generous support from the community to help ensure no child goes hungry.

“Part of what gave us that boost in the arm was the big contribution from Portage Health Foundation with Giving Tuesday. And keeping our costs down as much as possible -- capability of purchasing from the food bank at a greatly reduced rate because we are a 501c3. We operate out of a church, Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Hancock because we’re rent-free. And they were gracious enough to host us. And actually they built a room -- we have two storage rooms now,” explained Maki.

More space, more resources to take care of more students in the program -- especially at Baraga Area Schools.

“Especially at a time of a pandemic when parents might not be working. We’re not very sure what’s going on and just to give them the food and give them the sense that, ‘hey I don’t have to worry about eating this weekend now’ is huge,” said Principal Tim Scott.

“This program is going to allow us to build equity. It’s going to allow us to you know, further support our students and not just their physical health but their mental health,” explained Guidance Counselor Amanda Rinkinen.

Healthy kids, healthy learning.

“We’re also interested in looking at graduation rates and hopefully making a change in Baraga County,” said Maki.

The nonprofit said they expect to serve as many as 400 students from low-income families throughout Copper Country barring any school closures.

To donate and support the 31 Backpacks mission:

Make checks payable to: 31 Backpacks, Inc. ⋅ 1100 Century Way ⋅ Suite C ⋅ Houghton, MI 49931

Contact Information: 906-231-1472 ⋅ 31backpacks@gmail.comFacebook Page

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