Johnson Controls extends the student “Backpack” program through the summer

Hunger doesn’t take a vacation

Click here to view photos of program activities

Marinette, WI – June 8, 2021 – Free or discounted school lunches fulfill a vital need for many local students, but only Monday through Friday during the school year.  Yet, hunger doesn’t skip weekends or take summer vacation.  While most students look forward to days or months without classes, others wonder when they’ll get their next meal.

In 2016, to help fill the need for weekend meals, Johnson Controls (JCI) employees kicked-off the “Backpack” Food Distribution Program.  Volunteers bag-up and deliver food to the schools on Thursday or Friday to provide meals to students over the weekend.  The program has gained momentum over the years with additional local companies and organizations joining forces with JCI to now provide meals to approximately 200 students throughout Marinette and Menominee counties.

While a large portion of the funds to support this program still comes directly from employee donations and fundraisers; last December, the Johnson Controls Foundation provided a grant of $45,000 over three years to St. Vincent DePaul to be used to support the Backpack Program in Marinette.  Also, for the second-straight year, the Milwaukee Bucks were quick to answer our call for donations, this year contributing over $5,000 for the program and donating Bucks branded draw-string bags for the students.

Jill Kakuk, JCI Human Resources Manager, explained: “These generous donations from the Johnson Controls’ corporate foundation and our partner, the Milwaukee Bucks, have enabled us to both sustain our initial program and expand it to support additional school systems, as well as the summer programs in Marinette and Stephenson.  We hope to keep up the momentum and, with the help of additional sponsors, expand the program to all of the students in our neighboring communities.”

The current list of local contributing businesses and organizations continues to grow with the recent addition of Resolute who, this year, began to sponsor three school districts in northern Menominee County.  Other sponsors of the Backpack Program include Winsert, Airgas, Anchor Coupling, Samuel Pressure Vessel Group, Casting Services Group and St. Vincent DePaul of Marinette with fundraising assistance from Jack’s Fresh Market, ImageWorks, the YMCA, “Project Give,” Applejacks Bar & Grill, Downtown Sandwich & Ice Cream Shoppe, KK Integrated Logistics, ChemDesign, Barley Excavating, Inc., the EagleHerald and numerous personal donations.  Local fundraising continued over the Memorial Day weekend with a Brat Sale hosted by JCI at Jack’s Fresh Market of Menominee that brought in nearly $5,000 including several local business and private donations.

This is truly a community effort. Any company or individual interested in sponsoring a school or making a donation can contact Jill Kakuk or Maggie Faccio at Johnson Controls (715-735-7411) or Chris Behrend at Winsert (715-732-1703).