B.E. Area brings back ‘Buc Bags’

From left, Blue Earth Area Community Education director Dar Holmseth, Superintendent Evan Gough and school board members Jeremy Coxworth and Amber Patten put together Buc Bags on Thursday.

Strong community support and effort has brought back a program that provides food to Blue Earth Area students outside of school.

The “Buc Bags” program began five years ago, according to school board member Jeremy Coxworth. But when the previous facilitator began facing health issues, the program had to temporarily stop.

The idea to bring back Buc Bags came about after a woman asked about the program during the Blue Earth Area State of the District on Nov. 28. Since then, Coxworth, his family members, community members and service and youth groups in the area have been taking time every week to put together the bags.

Superintendent Evan Gough said the program was started to fill the nutritional needs of Blue Earth Area families. During his State of the District report, Gough said 43.1 percent of Blue Earth Area students are eligible for free and reduced lunch district-wide.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, nearly 4 in 10 Minnesota public school students are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. In Faribault County, 32.2 person of students are eligible for free lunches, with 10.4 percent eligible for reduced price lunch.

While the cost of the Buc Bags is currently coming out of Coxworth’s pocket, he said this is about to change, thanks to donations from community members and local youth and service groups.

Coxworth said the return of Buc Bags has been well-received by parents, community members and students.

“My daughter is in elementary. Once [the students] found out that we were taking over, some of the kids asked for Slim Jims,” Coxworth said.

Luckily for students, two Slim Jims are put into every bag. Other items include fruit snacks, Ramen, pudding, instant oatmeal and a juice box.

On Thursday, school board members and Blue Earth Area administrators met at Coxworth Water Conditioning in Blue Earth to put together 152 bags to be given out for the week. Coxworth said the building is currently a “make-shift” location, and they are looking for a space where different organizations can take turns building the bags.

Gough said any student is able to receive a Buc Bag, even if they are not eligible for free and reduced lunch.

“We have not turned kids away if they’re interested in participating,” Gough said. “We get positives from parents, community members and from our teachers that it’s a great program.”