Joplin, MO (SNS) – More than $80,000 will be dispersed to backpack programs designed to address food insecurity in area school districts during a check presentation at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, in Billingsly Student Center’s Connor Ballroom at Missouri Southern State University.

Through a partnership between the Neosho-based Nutra Blend and Missouri Southern, checks will be presented to programs in Nesoho, East Newton, Seneca, Monett, Joplin, Webb City, Carthage and Carl Junction.

“We became involved in the backpack program about a year ago to help raise awareness of the fact that there are not only kids around the world who need food assistance, but right here in the U.S. as well,” said Joe Elliott, sales project manager for Nutra Blend.

“Bright Futures and other backpack programs in the area are on the front lines to help get food to those kids in need of it on the weekends.”

In November, the company partnered with Missouri Southern for a 5k run and also brought the “Chew on This” truck to campus as part of the nationwide Drive to Feed tour to raise awareness about world hunger. A gala dinner and silent auction was also held at Downstream Casino.

In total, nearly $84,000 was raised for the backpack programs. Nutra Blend has worked closely with the Missouri Southern Foundation to allocate the funds.

The money will enable the backpack programs to continue sending food home each weekend with children in need.

Barb Lake, Bright Futures coordinator for the Neosho R-5 School District, said the backpack program helps to provide peace of mind for students facing issues of food insecurity.

“They can come to school ready to learn and not have to worry if they’ll leave school without food for the weekend,” she said.

Donations, said Lake, are vital to the continued operation of all of the area backpack programs.

“Our program in Neosho costs $50,000 a year and we’re up to 364 students,” she said. “Expenses are going up. We’re not funded by the school district – it’s churches, businesses and individuals that make it possible.”

Founded in 1975, Nutra Blend manufactures quality vitamin, trace mineral and antibiotic premixes for the feed industry, and distributes micro-ingredients and other ingredients needed to manufacture feed in today’s highly technical industry. Mike Osborne, the president and CEO of the company, is a 1976 graduate of Missouri Southern.