A friendly challenge has raised enough money for meals around Easter as part of the Backpack Meals Program.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's stay-at-home and school closure orders to curb the spread of COVID-19 has led to more children needing those meals and a $10,000 expense.
A Billings woman who put out a challenge raised $5,000 in 24 hours.
Backpack Meals gives breakfast and lunch for close to 350 Billings students on the weekends.
"With layoffs and the furloughs within our service industries, we're seeing that number go up,” said Billiy Hurt, who is a parent and part of the support staff at Billings Senior High School.
Hurt said those numbers went up to more than 1,200 and she found a way to help meet the challenge of meals during a five-day period from Thursday to the Monday after Easter.
“To think that there would be kids going hungry over that Easter break and this big deficit, it stirred me differently," she said.
Billings Schools Superintendent Greg Upham talked about the increase in demand for Back Pack meals on Facebook.
“I was just kind of spurred on by Greg Upham's Facebook Live post talking about the need for $10,000 for our backpack meals,” Hurt said. “At the time I had 1,849 friends on Facebook and I just put out a challenge that they could each send me a dollar on Venmo. I thought maybe we could put a little dent in the Easter deficit.
Hurt said others also helped a program put together by the Education Foundation for the Billings Public Schools.
“There's all of this collaboration that's already set up to serve our students during the regular school year on weekends,” Hurt said. “And then coordinating with Sodexo and they just stepped up and said hey we're going to provide the extra meals home."
"I can't think about anything more important than being able to help our students have the appropriate nutrition to just survive, let alone learn," Upham said.
“I'm just thankful and humbled and super glad that I could make a crazy post and do something positive and I’m thankful people responded to it."
Back Pack meals will still need help after Easter.
It costs $4.25 for two breakfasts and two lunches.
With the demand, the program managers expect the costs to be $5,000 each weekend.