Poverty levels are on the rise due to current economic weakness and too many Idahoan children go hungry over weekends. Many families rely on school meals provided by the Free and Reduced Lunch Program to feed their children, but these meals are not available on weekends.
Teachers throughout Idaho share stories of children coming to school hungry after a weekend. Studies show that food-deprived children are more likely to become sick, have a decreased attention span and lack enthusiasm to learn because they are concentrating on hunger more than learning.
The Backpack Program provides crucial nutrition throughout the school year to ensure that children return each Monday nourished and ready to learn.
The Backpack Program began when an inner-city school nurse asked for help. Each Monday morning the same students came to her with stomach aches and dizziness; she realized that they had not eaten since their free school lunch the Friday before. School officials responded by sending home food on Fridays but made the mistake of putting the groceries in paper bags which made children feel singled out. When the weekend meals were placed into backpacks, children felt more comfortable and their nourishment was ensured.
The Idaho Foodbank (IFB) works in partnership with school officials to identify chronically hungry children who can benefit from the Backpack Program.
With parental permission backpacks are distributed discreetly to participating children on Fridays or the last day of the school week. The weekend backpack weighs about six pounds and includes two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, and two snacks that are nonperishable, child-friendly, and easy to prepare.
The meals provided by the Backpack Program have been nationally analyzed by a dietitian in an effort to provide balanced nutrition and encourage healthy eating habits. Recently we have increased whole grains and fruits, insisted on vitamin-fortified 100% juice and decreased overall fat content.
IFB distributes 2,000 backpack refills each week throughout Idaho however 7,000 are needed.
Through additional funding and support you can provide weekend nutrition for hungry children. No child should have to go hungry over the weekend.
The Idaho Foodbank is an independent 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization
comprised of a partner network of more than 200 hunger relief agencies
throughout the state of Idaho.