Many Vermont kids rely on school breakfasts, free or reduced lunches and after-school programming for their meals during the week. On the weekends and during vacations, though, a food insecure household may have to stretch its resources even farther with kids at home all day. The Vermont Foodbank BackPack Program helps alleviate childhood hunger during these times, by sending kids home with nutritious bags of food on Friday afternoons.
It’s hard to imagine the situation unless you’ve been in it yourself, so we gathered the voices of several school staff. Here’s how they see the BackPack Program working in their communities.
Winooski (JFK) Elementary School
The students at JFK School are very thankful for the Backpack Program food bags. There are many students that tell me that they don’t have much food at home, so they appreciate getting some food to take home every Friday. Some students tell me that their mother cannot buy cereal or snacks, so they are anxious to have this food to eat, as it has become very special to them… it gives them hope and pride to have food that is their own.
The BackPack Program fills a huge void in our school community. The majority of our students qualify for free school meals, and live in poverty conditions. We also have a number of families that are homeless or in transition. The food from the program helps our children to have healthy and accessible food for the weekend and provides much-needed assistance to the families for the week.
The children have reported that they really enjoy the snacks like popcorn, goldfish and the chocolate milk. The parents enjoy the vegetables and the fruit cocktail, as they can use them with meals or for snacks at home. Also, the tuna is a big hit with many of the families!
Overall, the BackPack Program not only gives our students food, but comfort in knowing that there is some food available for them when it’s needed and hope for another day without the worry and the anxiety of where a meal might be coming from when they are not at school.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Coordinator
Oak Grove School
When asked about the VT Foodbank BackPack Program, children often describe it as “awesome;” parents often describe it as “absolutely essential for our family.” Since 2010, Oak Grove School in Brattleboro, VT has been a fortunate participant in this remarkable program. Approximately 40 of our families receive weekly healthy snack and food supplements for their children throughout the entire school year.
With 65% of our students qualifying for Free and Reduced Meals, many of our families rely on their children being fed at school for both breakfast and lunch, 5 days a week. Often, when the weekend comes, parents are at a loss as to how to address their children’s hunger. Parents report that the BackPack Program provides snacks their kids will eat, as well as foods critical to supplementing their home meals. As one parent said, “I know how to stretch out that mac ‘n’ cheese with those veggies and make a meal for everyone.”
Oak Grove School is most grateful to the Vermont Foodbank’s program and we fully support their efforts as they seek continued funding. The Backpack Program is absolutely critical to many of our families’ health and well-being and an essential element in preventing hunger in their lives.
School Counselor/ Backpack Program Coordinator
I believe we are getting ready to start our third year of the Vermont Foodbank BackPack Program here at Rutland Northwest and Northeast Primary Schools. Each year the number of children helped by this program has grown significantly and each year you have helped us meet the demand. On behalf of the families who have benefited from receiving food each weekend for their child, I thank you and your suppliers.
This year as forms came back parents commented on the bottom of the form. The parent of a Kindergartener wrote, “I had not known of this program. I’m very excited and happy to be a part of it and thank you.” Another parent wrote, “Thank you so much for the help.” Other comments were” “Thank you this program helped us out a lot last year. This is a very good thing you do for people. Again thank you,” “I’d like to say how helpful your program is. I am a single mother and it makes my son feel special to bring home food to his family. Thank you,” and another “Thank you. This program really does help especially on the weekends.”
Other families wrote that they no longer needed the program and wanted others to receive the support. I have had students ask me if it was the day for the food or they know it is the day for food and remind me to make sure it gets delivered to their backpack.
I wanted to let you know that our families are appreciative and that this program does make a difference. Thank you for all your help and please pass the thanks to your providers.
Nancy Spalding-Ness, LICSW
School Counselor NE and NW Schools
As part of their Fighting Hunger Together initiative, Walmart is giving out $3 million in grants for the most innovative and effective programs that help alleviate child hunger. The Vermont Foodbank is in the running to win one of 100 grants, but we need your help to win!
The more votes we receive, the better chance we have of winning a $45,000 grant from Walmart. The BackPack Program provides high quality, kid-friendly food to 850 children in need. Over the years, the need for the BackPack Program has grown and the Walmart grant opportunity will help us expand the program to three more schools.
Please vote today, and every day throughout the month of April, at http://ow.ly/jDxyH.