For the past decade, Cindy Novachich has devoted much of her life to provide food for local children unable to afford after-school and weekend snacks.

In between juggling two jobs that equated to working roughly 60 hours in a week, Novachich took it upon herself to help establish Mitchell’s Weekend Snack Pack Program in 2009. The vital services she’s provided for children and families living in the community earned her a civic honor Monday night at City Hall.

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson opened the City Council meeting by proclaiming Monday as Cindy Novachich Day, followed up by thanking her for providing nourishment to families and children in the community.

“Whereas Cindy’s passion for helping feed hungry children from her own living room, writing grants and putting together fundraising campaigns, along with providing much needed resources for kids in need, I proclaim this day as the ‘Cindy Novachich Day,’” Everson said, followed up with a standing ovation at City Hall.

Having spent much of her life in the foodservice and hospitality industries, Novachich noticed many of her coworkers were unable to afford adequate food items for their families and children. Looking for ways to aid those families’ inability to afford food items for their children, it was then when Novachich founded the nonprofit charitable organization that she’s helped develop since its inception.

“It’s been such a blessing to see how this program has helped nourish children,” an emotional Novachich said. “I have always been a person who gives back to people in need, and I believe God led me to this program and getting it started in Mitchell.”

Throughout the early years of the Snack Pack program, Novachich spent countless hours putting together snack packs in the living room of her home. But thanks to the help of Dakota Wesleyan University, the nonprofit organization now has a designated area to pack the snack bags.

In the first full year of operation, Novachich said the Snack Pack program helped feed 175 school children in the Mitchell School District. That number has now grown to serve 455 kids with weekend snack packs, according to Novachich.

“I am so humbled when I have people see me at grocery stores and thank me for what I’ve been doing with the program. It makes my day to hear parents and children thank me for providing them with food,” Novachich said.

From Mitchell Technical Institute and DWU donating money and vehicles, to local businesses pitching in time and money toward the program, Novachich said she is proud of the growing community support, noting it helps bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

Each snack pack includes five food items packed by board members and volunteers that are then distributed to participating children in the Mitchell School District each Friday throughout the school year.

“The program distributes the snack packs in an anonymous way so that way the kids in need aren’t looked down upon,” Novachich said.

As a hardworking woman who came from humble beginnings, Novachich’s vital work with the Snack Pack program strikes a personal, emotional chord.

“As a kid, I grew up having to ration food between my siblings. I didn’t have the resources that some kids had, so I know how much it means to kids when they grab their snack pack,” Novachich said. “It literally makes their day, and that’s what I love about this program. It makes my day knowing these kids have food.”

To help explain the importance of Mitchell’s Snack Pack program, Novachich retells a story that moved her to tears. In the Snack Pack program’s first year of operation, Novachich’s granddaughter came home after school and told her how overjoyed a fellow classmate was to have a sleeve of crackers.

“If a fifth grade boy is so excited about a sleeve of crackers, I think that helps explain how vital and necessary this program is for the community,” Novachich said.