Chobani food bags

Chobani employees deliver boxes filled with bags of shelf-stable food for students at Bickel Elementary School in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 18. From left are Garth Mickelson, Alyson Outen, Tyler Barrett and Shelley Pursell.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Enthusiastic Chobani employees this week delivered packages of shelf-stable food for students at Bickel Elementary School to take home in their backpacks for weekend meals.

With a processing plant in Twin Falls, the Greek yogurt maker partnered with the Idaho Foodbank to donate food, assemble the packages and deliver them to the school through the foodbank’s Backpack Program.

The program targets child chronic hunger, and each package provides enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks to provide nutritious, child-friendly food, Mary Ann Liby, said the foodbank’s nutrition service manager.

The sacks also include Chobani’s donation of $25 Wholesome Wave gift cards — which parents can use to purchase fruits and vegetables at local retailers — and coupons for free Chobani yogurt.

“Chobani is a great partner of the Idaho Foodbank,” Liby said.

The partnership will provide 400 sacks to children in seven elementary schools in the Twin Falls School District through September.

Chobani’s donation of food, gift cards and coupons represent a $35,000 donation and is just the latest in Chobani’s fight against childhood hunger in the local community. In June, the company offered to cover the $85,000 in student lunch debt in the district for the 2018-19 school year.

“Our mission since Day 1 is to provide better food for more people” said Alyson Outen, Chobani director of community relations.

That is no more important than meeting the needs of children and the hungry, and Chobani wanted to highlight the need through the Backpack Program, she said.

“There are hungry children in our own backyard. We’re a food company,” and Chobani wants to bridge the gap between children and hunger, she said.

Chobani came up with an innovative model to not just donate food or money but assemble the packs and deliver them to schools, saving the foodbank a lot of staff time, Liby said.

About 60 Chobani employees volunteered to unload the food, assemble the packages, box them, load them and deliver them to schools, Outen said.

“Chobani employees are so passionate about giving back,” she said.

The company hopes to continue and expand its involvement in the Backpack Program, she said.

“It’s extremely rewarding and successful,” she said.

Kate Milligan, student mentor at Bickel Elementary School, who also oversees the school pantry, said the weekend food packs are much appreciated.

They’re user-friendly and fill an important niche for children whose parent, parents or guardian might be working on the weekend, she said.

“The kids love it. The parents love it. We’re lucky to have this, definitely,” she said.

The foodbank’s Liby said partners like Chobani and Bickel Elementary know their community, work on that strength and step up.

“We couldn’t do what we do without partners or schools,” she said.

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