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ARIZONA — Many of today’s most successful professional rodeo stars finished in the money at several Fourth of July rodeos in the White Mountains, Prescott and Window Rock.

Childhood hunger is not only a problem in poor countries around the world. It exists in our local communities. Of the 1,000 students attending Blue Ridge Elementary School, 600 qualify for free or reduced fee breakfast and lunch. Sadly, many of these youngsters have little or nothing to eat between their Friday school lunch and Monday’s school breakfast. The local chapter of the national Backpack Snacks program, aims to make a small but significant difference in the lives of these youngsters.

Everyone knows that our youth are the future, and our society faces considerable challenges that these young people will have to help solve. Therefore, it is in all of our interests to make sure that every child has the best chance possible to fully develop all of their talents. A growling stomach makes for an inattentive student.

That’s where ‘Backpack Snacks’ comes in. They intend to start sending 100 of our neediest elementary students home with a bag of easy-to-prepare food items, every weekend, beginning in September. Supt. Wright has already designated space for storage, at the high school. The bags will be filled, there, and then discreetly transported and distributed to the kids at the elementary school, every Friday.

Several local groups have already offered to provide donation locations, and hope to find more, to make donating as easy as possible for everyone. Presently, you can drop off donations of food at the Show Low Chamber of Commerce and at Body Works. In addition, the Pinetop-Lakeside public library, next to the middle school, has offered to reduce any late fees by 50 cents for every granola bar donated, between now and July 31. The Pour Coffee House and the House Restaurant, as well as the Pinetop-Lakeside Chamber of Commerce will be having collection boxes.

Other groups and organizations have been approached, and we will update the locations on our Facebook page, as they are added. You can tell us of any group who wants to donate by contacting us through Facebook, as well.

While accepting donations of food or money will be an ongoing process, two dates have been chosen in the coming weeks for special attention: July 27 and Aug. 3, when they will be out in front of the Show Low Walmart, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a list of our present requests and a convenient donation box: PopTarts – 800 boxes; individual Mac & Cheese – 400 boxes; individual fruit cups – 400; oatmeal packets – 1200; granola bars – 1000, Vienna Sausage cups with pull tops – 800; and tuna packets – 800.

Other items that an elementary child can easily access will be welcomed, as well. They are focusing on items with at least a minimal amount of nutritional value, so candy, chips, soda, etc. are not encouraged.

Finally and importantly, as the program gets moving, they will also need volunteers, on a weekly basis to perform the following: pack the bags, deliver the bags to the elementary school, collect donations from the various locations around the community and deliver them to the storage center at Blue Ridge High School.

Similar programs have been started in Snowflake, Taylor, Holbrook, as well as rural communities around the country. With your generous assistance, they will strive to make this program equally successful, giving a much-needed boost to our young people, our future.

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