The Backpack Program: Food for Children in our Community who Need it Most

It’s Friday, when we devote this space to reminding people of the fact that many kids who depend on school lunch programs are at risk of hunger over the weekend.     Sue Brockway, Tyson Community Relations, has long worked closely with River Bend Food Bank in Moline, Illinois.  She submits this entry today on the food bank’s backpack program.

Research has shown that children who do not receive adequate nourishment during their developmental years experience impaired mental and physical development.  The sad reality is that there are many children who rely on resources such as free and reduced priced meals for their primary source of food and nutrition during the school year.  But what about weekends when these programs are not available to these at-risk children? In 2007 River Bend Foodbank piloted the Backpack Program to help stop the debilitating effects of childhood hunger and meet the needs of children over the weekend when there may be little or in some cases, no food to eat. 
Today the Backpack Program at River Bend Foodbank has grown to provide more than 800 children with nourishing food to take home for the weekend.  Foodpacks are discreetly distributed to the children on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation throughout the school year. The food is nutritious, child friendly and easily consumed.
This program is so effective because of our partnership with 14 schools in the Quad Cities (Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois). School staff identifies the students who are most in need and distribute the food each week.  Each year we ask the teachers of the children who receive the food to complete a survey to help us determine how well the program is working. 
Here is a sampling of the comments on the surveys:

  • One little boy told me very week that there was not food in the house. Since the Backpack Program, he has stopped saying that.
  • I have a little boy in my class who would always say, ‘Is it Friday yet? Do I get to take home my food?
  • The kids eat a lot of junk. This gives them something better to eat.
  • One of my students said he wished he could get the backpack food every day.
  • When Sarah got her food she told me: ‘I’m going to my aunt’s this weekend and I’m going to take my food with me!

River Bend Foodbank is an accredited member of Feeding America.  The Foodbank distributes nearly 5 million pounds of food to 22 counties on an annual basis.

By the way, if you know Sue Brockway, send her a note of congratulations. She’s the most tireless and selfless hunger fighter we have at Tyson Foods.  We’re all danged proud of her!