Children and students can receive free food from the Feeding America BackPack program. Groceries, bags of food, and other nutritional items are offered to students from lower income families. Hundreds of food banks across the nation participate in the program, and over 200,000 families receive assistance every year.
Schools that participate in the BackPack program will provide food packs to children who need help. Most of the recipients will be identified by caring teachers and staff members, and they will often select those children and teenagers who are showing signs that they are living in a high-risk situation. Many students will also be referred by school counselors. Regardless of which child is selected, all support provided is free and confidential. The school will see to it that the student is discreetly given a food pack to take home. No one wants the child to feel from their peers like are being singled out.
In addition to providing food packs from Feeding America, many needy children, their parents and siblings will be referred to local food banks, non-profits and pantries for additional assistance. A counselor can also direct families to other resources such as food stamp outreach, summer meals, discounted lunches, and senior citizen nutrition programs.
Studies show that a hungry child can have difficulty focusing in school. Realistically, how can a child focus on solving a reading or math problem when they are trying to ignore the persistent pangs of hunger. Many school administrators, teachers, and nurses have discovered that on Monday mornings they need to compete against hunger in order to try to get the attention of their students, as some children from low income and struggling families just aren’t getting the nutrition they need over the weekend. This is especially true for the more than 18 million children who currently receive reduced price or free meals through the National School Lunch Program. As the student can get food during the school week, but they then go without over the weekend.
Food banks and schools that offer BackPacks distribute free food packs to children from low income families and those who are identified by caring teachers, principals and staff members as showing signs that they are in a high-risk situation. Meals may be offered for long holiday weekends as well. They will do whatever they can to try to prevent a child from going hungry.
Many of the schools that hand out the BackPacks were chosen as the region where they are based, or the make up of the students, have proven a need. Participating schools can be selected according to their respective rates of free/reduced lunch program participation. Many of the Feeding America BackPack program locations and schools are also located in neighborhoods with limited access to charitable services such as soup kitchens or food pantries.
While the program has been operating for almost 20 years, Feeding America is always in need of additional donations and contributions in order to expand and enhance the offerings. The non-profit is also trying to increase the number of sites that participate in the BackPack program, as it changes and improves the lives of families in need.
The BackPack Program has several primary objectives. They include distributing nutritious, wholesome food to students in a caring, discreet manner. Resources can provide children at-risk of hunger with nutritious, easy-to-prepare food and groceries for preparation and consumption at their home or apartment. A key is long term success, so the program will provide additional resources and partners in order to assure long term sustainability of the program and the child’s health.
Another key is self-sufficiency. So resources are dedicated to reaching out to the entire family to assist them in accessing other financial or nutrition services that may be provided by your local food bank and outreach centers.
A number of free items can be provided in the Feeding America Back Packs. The items need to be easy to prepare, long lasting and so called shelf stable. Some of what families may find in a backpack includes breakfast bars, cereal, diced apple fruit cups, pudding, sliced pears, beef stew, chili, sunflower seeds, applesauce, and mixed fruit cups. Beverages can also be provided too, and include water and apple, grape or orange juice.
As indicated, a key objective of the BackPack Program is to help meet the weekend needs of hungry children and students. Feeding America, working with your school and local food banks, can provide people with free, nutritious and easy-to-prepare food to take home on school vacations and weekends when other private or public resources are not available. The help doesn’t stop there though. In addition to providing nutritious food to students and school children in need, some of the regional BackPack programs provide extra food for younger siblings. In addition, some of these programs even operate during the summer months.
Feeding America is a national non-profit organization that works with food banks across the nation. Call the hotline at 800.771.2303. Each local food pantry may tweak the service and/or adapt their own program in order to best meet the needs of their local community. However while adjustments may be made, each is committed to upholding certain outlined guidelines and standards.
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