Backpack Food Program

Community Generosity for the Backpack Food Program
Posted on 07/13/2020

Each year I get to reflect upon my school year and the great accomplishments achieved. One program I would like to highlight is the success of the East Central Backpack Food Program. I can truly say it is an honor to partner with our community to serve this need.

The USDA estimates that nearly 13 million children in the United States live in food-insecure homes, which breaks down to 1 in 6 children may not have consistent access to food to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. The East Central Backpack Food Program is doing its part to fill those needs within our own community. This program provides children with meals they may otherwise miss during the weekend and over school breaks. Each weekend, a bag of food is provided to students participating in the program, containing two breakfasts, two lunches, two snacks, and two vegetables/fruits.

Throughout the past 4 years, we have seen this program grow. During the 2017-2018 school year, approximately 1,620 bags of food were sent home, averaging 45 bags per week. In the 2018-2019 school year, approximately 2,330, averaging 59 bags per week. This past school year, approximately 2,882, averaging 76 bags per week. During COVID Distance Learning, we went from serving 80 bags weekly to 97 bags weekly. Our paraprofessionals assisted with packing the bags weekly during this time period and delivered them directly to their homes on the bus routes. We also increased the portion sizes of the products during distance learning to ensure that our students were receiving nutritious meals.

Teachers who have students in the program share: “The kids really benefit from this program. You can tell that a need is fulfilled when they receive the bag. The kids seem very relieved when they get the bag,” and “One of my students is incredibly appreciative. He has been losing weight and looking sick. I asked him if he needed food and he said ‘Yes, we are very poor. I could always use more food.’”

Besides the growth we are seeing among the number of students participating in the program, we are also seeing a positive change in the NHS leaders, who volunteer their time for this program. One student volunteer stated, “It has really opened my eyes to the needs of our community. It is a privilege to get to help our classmates.”

We also started a food pantry at our Alternative Learning Center in which students were able to access the food as needed throughout the week for their evening and weekend meals. The goal of this food pantry is to be able to provide our ALC students with consistent food options for the weekends and weeknights.

We would not be able to continue the East Central Backpack Food Program without the on-going help from our community members and organizations. Again, thank you for your continuous support for feeding the students at East Central School District.

Cassie Gaede, High School Counselor

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