The big holiday is over along with attention to charities, including food pantries and soup kitchens.

Brian Barks, with the Omaha-based Food Bank for the Heartland, says they have the year’s biggest demand during the winter months and while donations rise during December, they always drop off in January and February.

Barks says, “We do see a significant uptick in the amount of donations during the holiday seasons, thank goodness for that because the need does go up, but we need that to continue throughout every month of the year.”

The food bank serves local pantries and other non-profit organizations in 16 counties in western Iowa and 77 counties in Nebraska.

Barks says the food bank started a backpack program in 2006 that aims to stave off hunger for children attending public school. He heard the program’s validity reinforced just a week ago.

He says an elementary school child told his teacher how excited he was to come to school to get his backpack on Monday because he’d had nothing to eat all weekend. The students are discreetly given backpacks with a food supply for several days.

The backpack program started with three schools in 2006 and has grown to 21 school districts in Nebraska and Iowa, serving about 3,000 students. Barks hopes to increase the number to about 3,500 students next school year, but the cost of the program is the main factor in capping the number of students who get served.

He says each backpack costs $4, so it quickly adds up to $12,000 per week. Barks says people can donate to their local food pantry or backpack program, if there is one, or they can donate to the Food Bank for the Heartland and earmark the money to be used in a specific community or with a specific program.

More information can be found at