“Is it stealing if you take food out of the trash?” asked Sara Greenburg-Hassan’s kindergarten-aged son one evening in the spring of 2017. Upon further inquiring, Sara learned her son’s friend was taking food from school to bring home to his siblings, because he knew his siblings didn’t have enough to eat at home. After telling the story to other parents in her network, the group collectively decided to take action by creating FACT (Feeding Area Children Together), a nonprofit focused on providing meals to children on days when school is not in session.

 FACT received the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation’s Innovation Award in the “Nonprofit” category in November 2018. Watch their incredible story below!

In 2017, Sara Greenburg-Hassan’s 5-year-old son, a kindergartener, came home from school one evening and asked his mom if it was stealing if his friend was taking food from the trash can.

Sara later learned her son’s friend was taking food from school to bring home to his siblings, because he knew his siblings didn’t have enough to eat at home. Sarah’s oldest son then look at his mom said, “Well, mom, what are we going to do about it?”

Not long after, Sara told this story to her friend, Suzanne Friedrich. The two women looped in other parents in their network and came up with FACT (Feeding Area Children Together), a grassroots effort to reduce childhood hunger in Central Minnesota through a weekend food program called FACT Packs.

Despite feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and a lack of funding, they decided to take action anyway. FACT Packs, along with FACT Pantry and FACT Break Boxes, launched in the fall of 2017 with enormous success.

The nonprofit provided more than 1,750 FACT Packs, 260 Fact Break Boxes and over 500 Pantry visits within the first seven months. At the end of the school year, they had served over 20,000 meals to students and families at Discovery Elementary, Madison Elementary and North Junior High.

In most Greater St. Cloud public schools, children are fed breakfast and lunch at school, but unless they are involved in other organizations that provide meals on the weekend, they can potentially go without, if their household is not able to provide it.

Therefore, a typical weekend FACT Pack includes two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks. A Pack is sent home with a child for every day school is not in session during a typical school year, which ends up being roughly 102 days annually. Volunteer “Food Fairies” deliver the meals every Friday afternoon into the backpacks of each child in the program.

“Hunger is scary for kids, but when they know there will be a FACT Pack in their backpack on Friday, they aren’t scared anymore,” explained Suzanne Friedrich. “They know there will be food at home. It can even be a proud moment for the children because they’re bringing food home to help their families.”

Friedrich also noted they’ve seen noticeable behavior improvements and enhanced well-being from the children being supported by the program. She believes the real impact will be evident a decade from now when those same children grow up and have a changed perception about the way to serve people.

Every three weeks, FACT hosts a public “Pack Event” where businesses and community groups are invited to come pack meals. They also go to businesses for private Pack Events.

For the 2018-2019 school year, FACT is budgeted to serve 140 students for 38 weeks which equates to little over 43,000 meals. They currently have a wait list of over 150 families, but are working to be able to serve their whole wait list soon. With the help many local businesses and volunteers, FACT continues to work toward their goal to help end childhood hunger in Central Minnesota.