Chugiak Constituent and Daughter Start Homegrown Effort to Make Sure Kids Don't Go Hungry
JUNEAU – Propelled by her daughter’s personal experience in the first grade, a Chugiak resident and her daughter have pioneered an effort to make sure school kids in Alaska are able to have breakfast and lunch at school. In a period of four years, the Dare to Care school lunch program, a 501(c)3 nonprofit started by Bettsie Wild, has grown from buying school lunches for 35 kids to 1,300 in Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak, Wasilla and Palmer.
“When my daughter, Lena Wild, was in the first grade, she started sharing her sack lunch with another little girl who didn’t have a lunch,” said Wild. “I sent more lunch with her, but after awhile, she was bringing it back home, because the school would not allow her to share, because some kids have food allergies. As a result, we started anonymously paying for school lunches, and that has grown from 35 the first year to 1,300 now.”
Wild said her program has expanded to cover breakfast, as well as lunch, and picks up kids who fall through the cracks and are not able to qualify for the federally-funded school lunch and breakfast program. Since December 2008, she also hosts anti-bullying assemblies in schools statewide
“I commend Bettsie and her daughter on their foresighted, good-citizen approach to solving a problem they personally found in the public schools,” said Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River. “It was heartening to hear their story, and that they took the personal initiative to do something about kids who go to school hungry.”
“It’s a story that is good for all of us on how you can take initiative based on seeing something that just isn’t right,” said Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla. “When you think about it, Bettsie could have looked the other way, but she said this is a greater cause than just our school, and now her family is helping to feed up to 1,300 kids between Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak and the Valley.”
Wild said that, although her Dare to Care program is privately-funded, she supports passage of SB 213, which would provide a state match for the federal school lunch program.