September is almost over, and the 2016-2017 school year is in full swing. This means the Backpack Program at the Food Bank of Delaware has begun! Right now more than 2,000 children participate each week, but as the school year continues, our distribution numbers will swell to more than 5,000 children per week.
Through the program, children identified as being at risk of hunger during the weekends and holidays when school is not in session receive a bag full of easy-to-prepare, healthy foods. School officials discreetly place the bags in the children’s backpack each Friday or before a school holiday.
For many of our state’s children, this program is a life line. Last year we distributed 160,800 bags through 133 statewide sites.
Brick Mill Elementary in the Appoquinimink School District is one of them. This school located in Middletown has been participating for the past four years. School nurse Kelly Apps coordinates the program for the school.
“This program gives our students the security that they will have a meal over the weekend and provides them excitement about what their weekly bag will contain,” she explains. “Our students look forward to getting their backpack food and will always remind us if we are running late to give it out. These meals help them return to school on Monday ready to learn.”
Many of the participating students at Brick Mill and other schools throughout the state have limited food options at home.
The Backpack Program provides the nourishment that students need to learn, play and grow.
“Hunger significantly impacts students’ ability to focus and retain information in school,” says Apps. “Without proper meals, students can become tired and unable to learn. The Backpack Program helps ensure they are prepared to participate in their school day.”
Thanks to generous community sponsors, the Food Bank of Delaware is able to provide one child with a bag full of weekend food for the entire school year for just $168.
Children who participate in the Backpack Program come from all walks of life – some are in elementary school, while others are in high school.
One student participant missed the first two weeks of school because she was homeless and living in a hotel. Another child’s father was seen begging for food in the community with a sign saying he was homeless. Many participants are being raised by their grandparents. Two Backpack recipients live with their grandparent who has a chronic illness. She is doing her best to raise the children, but they sometimes run out of food.
Here at the Food Bank of Delaware, we are working hard each day to make sure that no child in our community goes to bed hungry.
To learn more about hosting the Backpack Program at a Delaware school or to sponsor the program, please click here.