All school-aged children today have one thing in common: the ever-present backpack. For most kids a backpack might contain books and other school supplies. For children participating in the BackPack Program, a backpack means much more – it means a weekend with a full belly.
The Vermont Foodbank wants to do everything it can to ensure that the youth in our communities don’t go hungry over the weekend. In October 2008, the Foodbank launched a weekend nutrition program for children called the BackPack Program. This nationally recognized program of Feeding America is designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other resources, like school breakfast and lunch, are not available, such as weekends and school vacations.
How does the BackPack Program work?
Bags of kid-friendly, nonperishable, vitamin fortified food from all five food groups are packed at the Vermont Foodbank and then distributed to participating schools. Guidance counselors, along with school nurses and other staff, will determine those students they deem most in need and send permission slips home to their parents explaining the program. To reduce any stigma, packs of food are placed into the backpacks of those children participating in the program while the students are not in the classroom.
The packs contain about eight food items for the weekend; each pack contains similar items. Some of the items might be: canned fruit and veggies, cereal, milk, cheese, and soup.
During the 2014-2015 school year the following schools are participating in the BackPack Program:
- Alburgh Elementary School
- Barre City School
- Barre Town School
- Barton Graded School
- Bennington Elementary School
- Berlin Elementary School
- Brighton Elementary School
- Central Elementary School, Bellows Falls
- Green Street School, Brattleboro
- Isle La Motte Elementary School
- Lunenburg and Gilman School
- Molly Stark Elementary, Bennington
- Newport City Elementary School
- Northeast Elementary School, Rutland
- Northfield Elementary School
- Northfield Middle and High School
- Northwest Elementary School, Rutland
- Oak Grove School, Brattleboro
- Roxbury Village School
- The Saint Johnsbury School
- Spaulding High School
- Sutton Village School
- Troy Elementary School
- Winooski Elementary School
Schools are selected for the program each year based on funding available and percentage of youth participating in free and reduced priced lunch at the schools.
One thousand youth will receive backpacks each week during the 2014-15 school year. In a year’s time, the Vermont Foodbank will package approximately 35,000 bags or 123,000 pounds of food for children in need.
This program is made possible through the generous support of WalMart, Sodexo, Unilever, Tillotson Foundation, Proteus Fund, Procter & Gamble, Bufka Foundation, Rona Jaffe Foundation, National Life Group, United Church of Hinesburg, Barre Lions Club, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Seventh Generation, Turrell Fund, and Dead River Company. Your contributions also make this program possible. Please consider giving to the Vermont Foodbank today.
At the close of the school year, the Foodbank distributed program evaluations to teachers, school administrators and parents. Below are some quotes from the completed evaluations testifying to the impact the BackPack program had on their students:
“Children with poor attendance are always here on food days”
“Children are more socially involved with peers since the startup of the program.”
“Monday mornings are much better! Less lethargy, complaints and visits to nurses.”
“They seem to have a sense of calm knowing that they have food on the weekends.”
“It saves our family money and the kids are eating more fruits”
“It helps us understand the importance of nutrition in our lives.”
For more information about this program, contact:
Youth Programs Manager and Network Partner Support
Learn more about other Vermont Foodbank youth programs.