IRONTON, MO (KFVS) - It's a program that's spreading to more and more school districts throughout the Heartland to make sure children don't go hungry on the weekends.
Arcadia Valley School District wants to expand its Backpack Impact program. They're asking for your help in winning a nationwide contest that would help them reach more students through the program.
Teachers there say many students who walk the hallways everyday would go home hungry on the weekends if it weren't for the program and their backpacks full of food.
First-grade teacher Kimberly Cofer said what kids get in the kitchen really shows in the classroom.
"You can always tell who has had plenty to eat because they're ready to go in the morning and ready to learn," Cofer said. "If they come in hungry, then we have to fix that before we can work and learn."
That's why Elementary Principal Laura Marquis said Backpack Impact is so important, especially in the Arcadia Valley School District.
"We [the school district] are 60 percent free and reduced lunch," Marquis said.
Teacher Wade Buckman started the program. He said the need for expansion is obvious in his classroom.
"I had a lot of questions about food, 'When's lunch?' Stuff along those lines," Buckman said.
They're wanting to expand the program to reach more students and fill more bellies.
"Even though a great need is being fulfilled, I think there is an even greater need out there," Elementary School Counselor Pam McLaurin said.
It's a need they're trying to meet by winning a nationwide contest. Jeremy Leach nominated the school for the competition.
"They ask that we nominate a local hero," Leach said.
Leach owns two local HealthMart stores. That's the company by which the contest is run. He also volunteers for the program. For him, it's more than about just doing a good deed.
"We are part of the healthcare team and part of that is making sure our kids have food and nutrition," Leach said.
Arcadia Valley is one of 10 finalists nationwide. The teachers say they're one step closer to making an even bigger Backpack Impact. They say the prize money would be a huge boost.
"30,000 dollars, at the amount we are doing per week, 75 kids would last us at least five years," Buckman said.
These teachers say you can help by simply logging onto the website and casting your vote for Arcadia Valley.
"I want people to understand that when they're doing that, they're changing kids lives," said Middle School Counselor Crystal Buckman. "They're taking time out of their day, and they may think 'Oh it's just a competition,' but to us, and to the kids that need it, it's not, this is their lives."
You have until noon on Sunday, March 30 to cast your votes, log onto www.healthmartcommunity.com. To vote for the Arcadia Valley School District's Backpack Impact program, vote for the video by Wade Buckman. You are allowed to vote once every day.