A $25,000 grant from ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston will help provide Tri-City children with meals during weekends.
Second Harvest Tri-Cities will start a new program called School Pantry in January using the grant, which was announced Tuesday.
Second Harvest Tri-Cities is one of 14 organizations nationwide to receive a 2011 ConAgra Foods Foundation Nourish Our Community Award.
Through School Pantry, students at a Kennewick school and Richland school will receive a 10- to 12-pound box of food as school is released for the weekend, possibly once a month, said Kathye Kilgore, Second Harvest Tri-Cities director. The box will include a mix of perishable and nonperishable food items.
"So many kids are dependent on the free and reduced lunch programs," she said. "Some kids, what they eat at school is what they eat."
The box of food will allow children to share it with siblings and their parents, she said.
And the food will be available to the whole student body, not just kids enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, Kilgore said. Just because families do not qualify for free or reduced lunch doesn't mean they are eating nutritious meals or have food on the table, she said.
The schools benefiting from the grant will be announced later, but Kilgore said the nonprofit chose schools with higher levels of free and reduced lunch usage and ones where the nonprofit felt the program would have the most impact.
Kilgore said Second Harvest wanted to have the program where people might not realize hunger exists.
Second Harvest estimates the ConAgra Foods Foundation Nourish Our Community Grant will help provide food for more than 37,500 meals.
Kilgore said the grant will keep the program going through June.
"It couldn't happen without the Con-Agra grant," she said.
Part of the reason Second Harvest Tri-Cities was chosen for the grant is the service and outreach that will be provided through the School Pantry program, said Gene Hinkle, spokesman for ConAgra Foods, Lamb Weston's parent company.
And the nonprofit is going out of its way to get into schools and find children who may not have enough food to eat, he said.
It will help replace Project Backpack, where students at 10 elementary schools were given backpacks full of food to take home, said Elisabeth Clark, Lamb Weston procurement specialist, who nominated the nonprofit for the grant.
Clark also nominated Second Harvest Tri-Cities to receive a $17,000 ConAgra Foods grant that paid for Project Backpack, which ended about two years ago.
As a member of the Second Harvest Tri-Cities advisory council the past few years, Clark said she hass seen firsthand how needs have increased.
"When kids are hungry at school, they can't focus," she said. "They can't do a good job. They're not healthy,"