Fight Child Hunger This Winter by Supporting a Backpack Program

If you didn’t grow up hungry as a child, you probably have fond memories of the holidays. When the bell rang for the last time, you got two whole weeks of freedom from class. But for the one in five children who live in poverty, the holidays can be less-than-jolly, becausethey rely on school lunch to meet some or all of their nutritional needs.

Over 12 million children experiencefood insecurity– and that doesn’t just mean they don’t always know when their next meal is, although that’s bad enough. Food insecurity goes hand-in-hand with poverty, and it can be accompanied by poor health outcomes, difficulties in school, emotional disturbances and much more.

Advocacy groups and school districts areusing a variety oftactics to address this issue, starting with programs to get people and communities out of poverty. But in the short term, there’s one very powerful option: the backpack program, which is often administered through a food bank that partners with a school.

Schools have been participating in backpack programs for over a decade, but they’re starting to get more attention as they spread across the U.S. As you might imagine, they start with a backpack — one filled with food which may be shelf-stable, perishable, or a mixture of both. Some draw oncommunity-supported agriculture and other sources of local produce, and they may include recipe cards to give people inspiration.

The initiative isdesigned to give both kids andthe rest of the familyextra food. These backpacks can be customized to address concerns about food allergies and other dietary restrictions, and schools usually work on making the handoff discreet so low-income children don’t feel singled out.

While backpack programs are primarily focused on providing weekend nutrition, they can help fill the gap during the holidays, too. And that’s where you come in.

You can find out if your area has a backpack program by contacting the school district or a local food bank. If they do, they may have a donation wish list, as well as volunteer opportunities — and they’re also always happy to accept cash donations. Your contributions can help kids lead healthier lives so they can focus on learning and enjoying their childhoods, not stressing out about what’s for dinner.

If your school doesn’t have a backpack program, consider getting more information about the school’s demographics to see if there are low-income students who might benefit from a similar program. Approach stakeholders like the local food bank, community children’s organizations and the school itself to explore the possibility of starting one and ask how you can help bring it into action.

Be aware that issues around childhood nutrition and programs like these can get complicated. If you haven’t been involved with thesechallenges before, you may encounter some skepticism from people who feel like you appeared from nowhere to tell them they’re doing it wrong.

Instead of “why don’t we have a backpack program,” consider an approach like “I’d been reading about backpack programs and they sound like they might be good for our low-income kids. I’d be curious to learn more about your thoughts!”

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S Government Work

26 comments

David C
David C20 days ago

thanks

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Ann B
Ann B24 days ago

there should be no hungry children on this planet

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Tabot T
Tabot T24 days ago

Great idea

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S25 days ago

Thanks

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Jetana A
Jetana A25 days ago

A great idea. Too bad it's so needed in our affluent country!

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R25 days ago

“I’d been reading about backpack programs and they sound like they might be good for our low-income kids. I’d be curious to learn more about your thoughts!”
Shared. Thank you.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill25 days ago

great idea

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Toni W
Toni W26 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W26 days ago

TYFS

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Anne M
Anne Moran26 days ago

I thought the U.S was a super power,, and here are 12 million kids going to bed hungry every night... - I don't call that super,, rather pretty grim...

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