It’s Friday, the time we devote to reminding you of childhood hunger, and the many children who depend on weekday free lunches for their nourishment. Daniel Buckley from Feeding America member the Food Bank for New York City, sent this account of the great work their food bank is doing in addressing the challenges faced by kids who might otherwise go hungry on the weekends.
In 2007, the Food Bank For New York City took Feeding America’s model BackPack Program and made one simple but very significant modification. They took the national program – which provides children with bags of healthy food to take home – and merged it with the concept of a choice-style food pantry, calling it the Open Market BackPack Program.
Children accessing the Food Bank’s programs are able to fill their bags themselves, picking items from a selection of fresh produce and nutritious food. This activity helps children understand what goes into a healthy meal, while nurturing feelings of competency and self-sufficiency. Here is just one touching story of a child on whom this program made a great impression.
Told by a staff member of a domestic violence shelter that is a member of the Food Bank For New York City’s food assistance program network.
"John was a domestic violence shelter guest. John, along with his mother and younger brother, were victims of mental, emotional and physical abuse. Fortunately, they found the courage to leave and come here.
"Before they came here, John had to leave his school and his mother had to leave her job because of the abuse, and money was scarce. John’s mother has had a real hard time trying to make her money stretch so that the kids can have enough to eat. She’s told me that our Open Market BackPack Program has been a real lifesaver for her children — it feels so great that our services can make such a difference. Being able to shop for themselves makes the kids feel responsible. John’s a real sweet kid. It’s obvious he feels that he’s helping his family and feels real good about it.
"John’s mother said that he never wants to miss an opportunity to participate in the program. She always makes a point to show how thankful and appreciative she is by returning the tote bags neatly folded so they can be used again."
Be sure to check out the brand new Food Bank for New York City Blog. As you’ve just seen, they have some compelling stories to tell.
120 Feeding America food banks have backpack programs to help kids like John. You can help by donating food, funds or time to your local food bank.