Project addresses growing need of hungry students

News Photo by Jordan Spence Duane Durflinger and Linda Harris arrange everything before backpacks are stuffed for children in need Wednesday in Rogers City. The backpack project provides certain children with enough food for every every meal during the weekend.

ROGERS CITY — A number of organizations continue to address the needs of hungry students in Rogers City and Hillman.

The Backpack Project of Rogers City has joined forces with Hillman to provide food for students during weekends.

“We had 14 (students) last year; we’re going to have 35 this year. That’s because we added Hillman to it (and) there are 10 Hillman students. Rogers City grew from 14 to 25. The school said there was quite a few families who have dealt with homelessness this year than there was last year,” Rogers City Lions trustee Barb Durflinger said.

She said this surprised her because homelessness isn’t what she originally thought it would look like.

“You think of homelessness as being under bridges or outside. They said ‘no it’s living with grandma or a brother,'” she said.

She said the children receive food for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks for the weekend. They pack four weeks of food at a time at the Rogers City Senior Center, Durflinger said.

The food comes from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Lions member Linda Harris said. She said the food bank will provide food at $100 per child for the school year. The program has received many donations from people and other clubs such as Rogers City Zonta Club, Calcite Credit Union and the Servicemen’s Club. The Lions also applied for a grant from Presque Isle Electric and Gas and received one for $2,500. She said what was great about the grant was they asked for $1,200 and were given much more.

The program paired with Hillman this year because the food bank does this in numbers of 24 and last year they didn’t have 24 children.

“I asked the Hillman Lions because I knew them. I asked them if they would pair with us. They came up with 10 kids and we just assumed it would be the same. Then we went to talk to the school and they said ‘I think we will have about 25,” Durflinger said.

Durflinger first learned of a similar program at a Lions state conference in Lansing. She then called the school. They said they wanted to do something but didn’t have the funds available.

“They started this a little later this year because we had a lot of paperwork to do and they were already getting families asking about the program, so you know it’s appreciated. The teachers like it because the kids aren’t hungry,” Durflinger said.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687.