Backpack Buddies helps more kids look forward to weekends

Most school kids anxiously await the Friday dismissal bell, signaling the beginning of the weekend. But for many, instead of two days of fun the bell signals two days without enough to eat.Students who receive free and reduced lunches are assured of two nutritious meals during the school week. Breakfast is free for all those qualifying students. But thousands of students throughout the metro area are not assured of adequate nutrition on weekends.Backpack Buddies has changed that scenario for more than 1,000 students at Andersen Open Elementary School in Minneapolis and John A. Johnson Elementary in St. Paul. Continue Reading

Twin Cities schools use creative financing to pay for athletic fees

The crowd surges to its feet roaring approval as the high school running back streaks down the field toward the winning touchdown. When you watch this scenario played out on football fields across the Twin Cities this fall, know that the players’ victories don’t come cheap: They’ve paid for the privilege, not just in terms of tough physical practices in the hot summer sun, but also in cold, hard cash.A free public education in America is no longer free – at least not some of the activities that make learning fun. Athletic fees can be a big drain on the pocketbook, and in the Twin Cities area they vary widely district to district, from $290 in Anoka-Hennepin district to as little as $60-$90 in Minneapolis. And with economic recovery continuing at a snail’s pace, fees can put a big dent in a family’s budget.“It’s an issue nationally,” said John Millea, media specialist for the Minnesota State High School League. “With so many [parents] unemployed, it’s a tough one.”Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them.It is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, and some Minneapolis Foundation donor advisors.Community Sketchbook articles may be republished or distributed, in print or online, with credit to MinnPost and the foundations.But there is help available. Continue Reading