News for NMU Employees

Cat Packs Feed North Star Students on Weekends

Cat Packs, an NMU-initiated program that provides weekend meals to North Star Academy students from financially challenged families, wrapped up a successful pilot last week. Fifty K-12 students picked up food bags from the school office each Friday over the last few months of the semester. Organizers have initiated a fundraising effort in the hope of fully implementing Cat Packs for the 2015-16 academic year. All money raised will go directly to the cost of groceries divided up and distributed by volunteers.

“After the first week, the principal told us how much the kids were impacted and how grateful they were to receive this support,” said Sara Pingel, a graduate assistant in the Center for Student Enrichment. “There were some tears shed that day. Seeing how emotional she became sharing the students’ reaction was very moving for us and made us excited to continue and do more. She said the kids were most excited about the raw veggies. It’s nice to know they’re making good choices because kids do better academically with proper nutrition. And North Star is one of Northern’s charter schools, so it’s great to have that connection and help those students.”

Pingel said the idea for Cat Packs sprung from a fall discussion among a small group of NMU women about eliminating childhood hunger. The group realized that while so many students qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs at school, there was no comparable support on the weekends. The NMU Volunteer Center took the lead in coordinating the program in conjunction with the Marquette Salvation Army, which provides pantry storage and space for assembling the bags. Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors also offers support.

“There is more need in the community than you can imagine,” said Craig Heinonen of Coldwell Banker. “When we found out NMU was thinking of doing this, we wanted to team up to help the community. The Copper Country has a similar program for multiple schools and we wanted to use that as a model for Marquette because nothing like that existed here at that time. I went up and observed their whole process and accompanied them on a delivery. Now some of my colleagues and I deliver the Cat Packs to North Star every Friday.”

Pingel said they hope to find weekly sponsors who can give $150 or more—about half of the amount required to meet the need—but donations of any amount are appreciated. To make a contribution, or for more information, email, call ext. 2466 or visit