If I can’t feed my children, how will I ever be able to get them school supplies?

The Banquet in Sioux Falls is a food ministry that serves 13 meals per week to the surrounding community for those struggling to with food insecurity. Along with offering food, the Banquet provides other services, like new supplies for children returning to school.

Dakotah Jordan is the Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator for The Banquet. She says The Banquet’s Project SOS (Supply Our Students) gives kids the supplies they need to be prepared for when they go back to school in the fall.

“Guests in need of supplemental food often struggle to provide basic necessities for their families,” she explained.

The project started in 1989 after the Banquet director spoke with a woman who expressed concerns for providing for her children.

“A mother eating in the dining room with her children told the director at the time, ‘If I can’t feed my children, how will I ever be able to get them school supplies?’” said Jordan. “That’s when volunteers began collecting school supplies for children living in poverty.”

Backpack distribution will take place at Whittier Middle School on August 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To get a backpack with supplies, the child must be present with one form of identification, such as a birth certificate or social security card.

More than 6,000 backpacks are given each year to students and since the project began, more than 90,000 children in Sioux Falls and 30 surrounding school districts have received backpacks with new supplies.

“We are told when children are equipped with necessary school supplies at the beginning of the year, they walk into school with a renewed self-esteem and positive outlook that leaves them ready to learn,” said Jordan.

For those wanting to get involved, new backpacks, school supplies, and monetary donations can be brought to the Banquet, located at 900 E 8th Street in Sioux Falls, and collection boxes located at Hy-Vee, Kmart, Lewis Drug, Shopko, Staples, and Walmart. A complete supply list is also available online. People can also start their own collection boxes for school supplies.

Project SOS needs volunteers for packing of supplies on August 19 and distribution of backpacks on August 20. Several shifts are available on both days. Those interested in signing up should call ahead.

One of Jordan’s favorite stories from Project SOS involves two Wells Fargo employees dropping off supplies from a workplace collection box. One of them said that they benefitted from the Project SOS and because of it, he was able to go to school with new supplies. If it wasn’t for the program, he said he wouldn’t have had supplies for school.

“He volunteered to bring the supplies in because he wanted to give back to the program that gave so much to him,” said Jordan. “This story shows how this program helps kids in our community gain an equal footing to succeed in life, and then are willing to give back as adults.”

Project SOS gets continued support from teachers and school officials for the services it provides to children and families.

“According to Sioux Falls public schools, nearly 9,000 children qualify for free and reduced lunches. This means that there are many families who are not reaching out for the assistance,” said Jordan. “There are still more children to serve.”

To volunteer for Project SOS, call (605) 335-7066. For a complete supply list, visit thebanquetsf.org. For info on starting a collection, e-mail erika@thebanquetsf.com.

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