The DeKalb County School System is making plans to launch a pilot program at Smithville Elementary School to make sure children who receive free or reduced priced meals at school have plenty to eat during the Christmas holiday at home.
Deanna Persinger, School Health Coordinator, says through the"BackPack" program, children receive food they can take home. The food is child friendly, non perishable, and easily consumed and vitamin fortified. "We're looking into something called a "BackPack" program for our students and possibly piloting that at Smithville Elementary and the reason why we have chosen Smithville Elementary is because we have a large percentage of students, approximately 357 kids who receive free and reduced priced meals, that we would look at feeding. The BackPack program serves as a way to feed those children during the holidays when they may not have food available to them. What we would do is fill bags of food to put in the backpacks with the children to go home during the holidays. We're shooting for Christmas break. We would send information home to the parents who are interested. Some parents won't be interested in the program but for the ones who are that's who we would be sending the food home with. We are looking for some partnerships as far as food donations, the plastic bags to put those in, and most importantly we need volunteers to help stuff those bags because if we're looking at approximately 350-360 children, that's a lot of food to stuff. The types of foods we're looking for are those that won't spoil that the kids could prepare for themselves if they are home alone or with siblings. If the program is successful we would like to continue that maybe during spring break or every other weekend. This is something lots of school systems in the state are already doing. Metro Nashville schools are partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank to do this. Other states are doing this as well. This is something that has gained in popularity and definitely something I see a need for here."
Suggested individually packaged food to donate for the BackPack program include: 100% juice in single serving unbreakable bottles, boxes, or pouches; small boxes or bags of nutritious cereal; nutritious snack/breakfast bars; fruit cups; small boxes of raisins or dried fruit; microwave popcorn; non-perishable single serve microwave kids meals; and individually packaged crackers (peanut butter and crackers)
For more information, call Deanna Persinger at 215-2118 or Cindy Childers at 215-2161
The BackPack Program concept was developed at the Arkansas Rice Depot, after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students were coming to her with stomachaches and dizziness. The local food bank began to provide the school children with groceries in non-descript backpacks to carry home.
In addition to providing nutritious food to school children in need, some BackPack Programs provide extra food for younger siblings at home and others operate during the summer months when children are out of school and have limited access to free or reduced-priced meals.
The BackPack Program became a pilot program in 1995. The National Council of Feeding America approved the BackPack Program as an official national program of the Network in July 2006.
More than 140 Feeding America members operated more than 3,600 BackPack Programs and served more than 190,000 children in FY2009.