How does weekend food affect families and children ?

How does weekend food affect families and children ?  We have 12 programs in Jefferson County who are dedicated to bringing weekend food to children and families.  Most programs do regular evaluations of the success or areas of growth needed to shape programs for excellence.  University of Illinois Urbana did a study for Feeding America.  Feeding America is the Hunger in America organization that is the steering wheel for spokes of Regional Food Banks who provide food to food pantries. http://www.feedingamerica.org/?referrer=https://www.google.com/Feeding America

 

Please encourage your child’s school to consider partnering with a weekend food program and to help them in evaluating results of program like families being less sick and child having greater success in school.  Please carefully read this report and send us your feedback to jeffcoeats@gmail.com 

The Family Resiliency Center for the University of Illinois Urbana does great work around practical ways to bring the trauma of hunger down and out. 

 

BACKPACK PROGRAM EVALUATION
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


This report presents the results of an evaluation conducted in 2011-2012, with support from
Morgan Stanley, for the BackPack Program at Feeding America, a weekend feeding program
administered by local food banks to reduce childhood hunger. The Eastern Illinois Food Bank,
located in Urbana, Illinois, was the Feeding America partner selected for the evaluation. Three
key areas were examined during the evaluation:
First, close to three hundred families, drawn from sixteen schools in six counties served by the
Eastern Illinois Food Bank, were surveyed on a quarterly basis from October 2011 to June 2012
about their experiences in coping with food insecurity (64% had children in the BackPack
Program, 36% of families did not). Responses from surveys by families with children in the
BackPack Program were compared to families who had children that may have been eligible for
the program, but did not participate due to limited program resources (comparison group).
Second, seventy-six parents were interviewed about their experiences in coping with food
insecurity and in participating in the program (54 parents had children who participated in the
BackPack program and 22 parents had children who did not).
Third, school attendance was compared for those children participating in the BackPack Program
with those potentially eligible for the program, but not receiving backpacks.
Glossary – Food Security Status
Food Secure – Access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Low Food Security – Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet; little or no
indication of reduced food intake.
Very Low Food Security – Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and
reduced food intake.
Evaluation Findings
IS THE PROGRAM SUCCESSFUL IN IDENTIFYING CHILDREN MOST LIKELY TO GO
HUNGRY OVER THE WEEKEND?
 73% of the households served by the BackPack Program were food insecure at the
beginning of the school year.
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 77.9% of the households served by the BackPack Program reported using SNAP
(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the last 30 days, at the beginning of the
school year. Additionally, 45.3% of households also used food pantries and 35.2% of
households used both SNAP and food pantries. Therefore, at least half of households
participating in the BackPack program utilized multiple interventions to address food
insecurity.Senior Hunger
DOES THE BACKPACK PROGRAM HAVE AN APPRECIABLE EFFECT ON SCHOOL
ATTENDANCE?
 Controlling for differences between program participants and the non-participant group,
the BackPack Program has a small but significant effect on increasing attendance on
Fridays, the day backpacks are delivered to children.
 Overall, children who participated in the BackPack Program missed more school than
those in the comparison group. This is not a reflection of the BackPack Program;
however, it does reflect the importance of considering selection effects when examining
program impact. Also, further analysis shows that children in the BackPack program were
more vulnerable than the comparison group on a few measures.
DOES THE BACKPACK PROGRAM HAVE AN APPRECIABLE EFFECT ON
HOUSEHOLD FOOD SECURITY AND FOOD RESOURCES?
 There was a statistically significant increase in the percent of families in the BackPack
Program (13%) who moved from low food insecure to food secure between October and
December in comparison to the families not receiving the BackPack (5%). However, over
50% of the families in the BackPack Program remained food insecure throughout the
school year.
HOW IS THE BACKPACK FOOD USED IN THE HOUSEHOLD?
 Although the BackPack program was originally conceived for child food insecurity, most
families shared the food and used it in preparation for family meals. The length of time
that food lasted in households varied based on a few key factors, but it was found that
food lasted just through the weekend for families with very low food security.
WHAT WAS THE EFFECT OF BACKPACKS ON HOUSEHOLD BUDGETS?
 For very low food secure households, participation in the BackPack Program was
perceived to have a big effect on their household budget. Twenty percent of the very low
food secure parents interviewed described the program as having a big effect on their
budgets whereas 9% of low food secure parents described the program as having a big
effect on their budgets.Hunger and Poverty
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FURTHER EVALUATION FINDINGS ABOUT HOUSEHOLD FOOD INSECURITY
 Unreliable and poor access to transportation is a major challenge for many of these
families. Insufficient means of transportation affects food shopping habits which may
prevent food insecure families from buying in bulk and taking advantage of lower cost
food outlets. Thus, the BackPack program is viewed as advantageous since the children
bring the food directly home.
 Parents mentioned summer time as a stressful period for allocating food. Parents noted
that having the children home from school, without access to the BackPack Program, and
feeding other children in the household, such as hungry teenagers, as real challenges.
 Many of the parents’ experienced poor physical health and this varied by food security
status. Forty-eight percent of parents reporting very low food security also reported fair
or poor health compared to 23% of low food secure parents and 15% of food secure
parents. The number of very low food secure parents reporting poor health was
significantly greater than the number of parents reporting low food security and the
number of parents reporting that they were food secure. Interview responses suggested
that poor health has consequences for meal planning and being able to plan ahead for
shopping and budgeting. Parents reported being too tired to plan for meals or to cook
and on occasion, turned these responsibilities over to older children.
 There is no universal experience in ways that families work to manage food insecurity
and parents identified different coping strategies during interviews. However, many
families expressed that the ability to plan ahead and budget time and money was an
important coping strategy.
 For some families living in more affluent communities, food insecurity and child hunger
was perceived as stigmatizing and there were limited available community resources. In
these instances, the BackPack Program was considered very beneficial.
Program Recommendations
 Although schools are doing a good job in selecting children likely at risk for weekend
hunger, additional training for school personnel about reliable indicators of food insecurity
may be helpful. For instance, with training, staff may be able to identify very low food
insecure children and households who may need additional resources and interventions
beyond the BackPack program, such as the National School Breakfast (NSB), SNAP,
SNAP-Ed, and Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP). Also, programs might want to
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consider including brief measures such as two-item screens to identify families at risk for
food insecurity.
 Children whose families are at the margins of food insecurity may not qualify for public
programs but still benefit from weekend feeding programs. Therefore, it is recommended
that program selection should not be based entirely on free and reduced lunch
participation because it may miss hungry children who live in more affluent communities.
 Based on findings, most children shared items in their backpack with other family
members so food banks may want to consider targeting foods that can be incorporated
into family meals.
 Based on the in-depth interviews, many families indicated a need for assistance in meal
planning and more efficient ways to budget for food. The BackPack Program may offer
an opportunity to provide educational information about shopping and meal preparation.
Future Research Questions
 If the BackPack Program was paired with consistent use of National School Breakfast,
SNAP, Summer Food Service Programs, or regular school food pantry distributions
would circumstances improve for those who experience very low food security?
 What is the role of the parents’ or guardians’ physical health in sustaining food insecurity
with school age children?
 Many of the families in this evaluation had children under the age of five. Because we
know early nutrition can play a pivotal role in later development, would there be positive
benefits to weekend feeding programs delivered in other settings such as child care
centers, Head Start, and WIC?
 What are the dosage effects of the BackPack Program? Would very low food secure
households benefit more if a BackPack was sent home for every child in the household or
with greater frequency?
 Would a larger national survey allowing for examination of unobserved factors such as
changes in employment status, income, and number of people in the household, replicate
findings that the BackPack program may affect food security status?Learn more about child hunger in America

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This evaluation was funded by Feeding America with support from Morgan Stanley. We thank
Elaine Waxman and Morgan Stanley for seeing the value in evaluating this popular program. This
evaluation was built upon several years work in collaboration with the Eastern Illinois Food Bank.
We are especially appreciative of the support and partnership extended by Jim Hires and Andrea
Rundell of the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. We are grateful to the Christopher Family Foundation
and the University of Illinois Food and Family Program that funded the initial work. The
outstanding BackPack research staff included Brenda Koester, M.S., Meghan Fisher, Blake
Jones, Ph.D., Stephanie Sloane, PeiPei Setoh, and Elizabeth Ignowski. Several undergraduate
students in the Food and Family Program at the University of Illinois provided invaluable data
management support. Dr. Tom Weisner provided exceptional guidance in the use of the
Ecocultural Family Interview and mixed methods approaches to data analysis. The school
personnel in the BackPack Programs not only assisted us with recruitment but volunteered their
own time to make the BackPack program work. Finally, we thank the families who participated in
this evaluation. They willingly shared their experiences so that we might learn more about the
struggles of feeding hungry children. We are grateful for their candor and have learned from their
personal stories.

Oracle Net Suite Volunteering February 23rd helps Jeffco Eats

Oracle NetSuite  Denver will come with the team of Kaitlin J. Moore on February 23rd to help us pack about 600 weekend food bags.  Their team of 20 will be just what we need to pack the bags in an hour and a half.

 

SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER:

Every Friday Jeffco Eats needs 25 to 35 volunteers to help pack food bags at Foothills Elementary School at 13165 W Ohio Ave Lakewood CO 80228 from 10 am to 11:30.  Please sign  up on Face Book page Jeffco Eats  https://www.facebook.com/jeffcoeats/

You can also sign up on Metro Volunteers Jeffco Eats – https://www.metrovolunteers.org/

 

Kaiser Permanent and First Bank have added Jeffco Eats to their volunteer efforts which is exactly our very strategic plan for 2018.  Our staged ramp up capacity plan can only happen with Corporation partnerships.  Summer 2017 had the full support and help from the Title One Jefferson County Schools team.

 50 Best Work Places for Giving and Volunteering – FORTUNE

http://fortune.com/2017/02/09/best-workplaces-giving-back/

It might be common for corporations to make charitable donations. But a few companies go above and beyond with their philanthropic work, with initiatives like food drives, cancer walks, and even volunteer bonuses. Fortune partner Great Place to Work combed through more than 350,000 staffer surveys to compile this list of the U.S. companies employees feel are doing the best job at giving back. Employees are asked detailed questions about how proud they are of their impact on the community, the difference they feel they make, and whether their work has special meaning. Outtakes of their responses are below.

Click here to read more about the list, and find out more about how the ranking is compiled here.

PCL CONSTRUCTION – DENVER 

“I am very proud to work for a company that is so well-recognized for its contributions to the community, both through corporate donations, employee campaigns, and volunteerism. Not only are employees encouraged to volunteer, we actually have a volunteer hours goal!”

Worldwide Employees: 4,572

Industry: Construction & Real Estate

HQ location: Denver

Total Philanthropic Donations: $4,010,000

Offers PTO for Volunteering: Yes

Offers Employee Matching Funds: Yes

Cisco – Denver – a large employer that gives time off for volunteering.

Small companies also are very intentional about allowing their employees time to help others. https://www.builtincolorado.com/2017/08/29/colorado-startups-paid-volunteer-time

In a world where people are eager to give back, time off for volunteering is becoming a stand-out perk for the charitable jobseeker. We’re now seeing more and more companies go beyond simply writing a check — and they’re getting employees involved, too. See which Colorado tech companies give their employees time off to volunteer in the local community.

Who is driving anyway ?

Yesterday I was at a meeting for Jefferson County policy regarding food.  We worked together to find ways that stigma would be removed, so that those who are suffering today could find help and solace. Trauma from hunger must be greatly reduced for the children and families. Who is driving anyway ? Their lives go in all too many directions each week that are unacceptable.

We believe at Jeffco Eats that together we can put each precious child and their families back in the drivers seat of a safe life.  We must support a multitude of ways to that goal line.

 

 

We must together as a community seek to find new ways or old ways that will bring thriving to those hurting from hunger.  We must expect shocking breakthroughs.

Colorado health department has been working on a Blueprint with many organizations.

http://www.coloradohealth.org/reports/state-plans-end-hunger-opportunity-colorado

 

To give up the steering wheel of your life to wave after wave of pain is something we must STOP.  Indifference or denial is not in our tool box Colorado !

Love is what will bring us together, not hatred.  We must listen to gain understanding from all who live and breathe in our state. This means someone different than you might just have a piece of the puzzle in their idea box called their brain and soul.  

We each must chose to listen for understanding.  We must listen to others to honor them and listen for understanding.  We know we Can Together End Hunger. 

Economics in a county comes from our hearts not just our heads.  There is a saying called love your neighbor as yourself.  This is a wild goal and purpose.  Love can conquer all sorrows and lacks.

So lets give our steering wheel of our life over more and more to serve others each week to make the children thrive and to heal the cracks in their hearts and lives.  We can !!!   We will.

Hunger Through My Lens

The PBS special Poor Kids, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/poor-kids/,  has ripped a hole in my heart.  The shocking raw emotion and sorrow of these children can not be met with indifference.  Numbing ourselves and denying the pain all around us is not the prescription to economic restoration in Jefferson County Colorado.  Together we are going to end hunger for our children.  Yes, together.  The article below is from Hunger Free Colorado, who does rock star work of all flavors and sorts.  Please read this and bring us some comments on our Face Book Page  /https://www.facebook.com/jeffcoeats/

Hunger Through My Lens participants host first exhibit in Prowers County

html_pcgroup“It’s hard to believe hunger is an issue in our country,” shared one resident of Prowers County.

It was a blue-bird day in Lamar, the Southeastern Colorado town of about 8,000 that serves as Prowers County’s seat. Topics of farming and ranching typically dominate local conversations, but this past Saturday, many were talking about the Hunger Through My Lens  exhibit at the Cultural Event Center.

Four residents—Elia, James, Sondee and Tasha—showcased their photographs and stories about how hunger has impacted their lives and their community, as well as ways to address the issue, for the first time on Nov. 12, 2016. They viewed their opening exhibition as a way to start the conversation about the issue of hunger locally and ways their community can address it. And it did just that.

Dozens of people visited the exhibit throughout the day, with many engaging in critical dialogue about food access, food quality and waste, obesity and the importance of community engagement to ensure local residents have access to healthy, affordable food.

img_2625Hunger Through My Lens is an advocacy project facilitated by Hunger Free Colorado and supported by local communities that aims to shed light on the reality of hunger across Colorado. It’s based on the photovoice model, a form of participatory action research that has been widely used in academic and other fields. Digital cameras serve as the main medium for participants to express themselves and put real stories to the statistics surrounding hunger, and each participant maintains the rights of their photographs.

The photovoice project initially launched in 2013 with a group of participants from the Denver Metro area. Since then, it has expanded to share perspectives from different regions of the state, including the San Luis Valley, the Roaring Fork Valley and now the Arkansas River Valley. The Prowers County project was done in partnership with resident volunteers, Emily Nieschberg, Susan Portner and the four participants to share perspectives from a rural, farming community on the Eastern Plains.

View more photos from the Prowers County opening exhibit.

Visit HungerThroughMyLens.org to learn more about the Colorado-based photovoice project and view photos from all participants.

Jeffco Eats Weekend Food Program is totally about collaboration.  We will be working this quarter of 2018 to uncover projects we can work on together to greatly increase the amount of food we are bringing to our precious school children and their families.  

Healthy is Happy

Healthy is happy with Jeffco eats school children. Join us in our programming. How students can be less hungry and more healthy is through our 3 programs.  Our non profit  provides healthy weekend food, fresh foods and first come first serve foods to ten Jefferson County Title One schools each week. Some of our schools choose to just provide shelf stable food sacks and some have families who desperately want the variety and health of produce, fruits, dairy products.  Healthy is happy with Jeffco Eats.

We believe in being an answer to the children’s access to healthy foods. We are part of the solution to food insecurity by including fresh produce. Our core goals and programs reduce hunger and bring healthy foods to our schools. We are members of Jefferson County Food Policy Council and advocates of Hunger Free Colorado. https://www.facebook.com/HungerFreeColorado/   

 

 

Our schools are Lasley Elementary, Emory Elementary, Mulholm Elementary, Deane Elementary, Edgewater Elementary, Foothills Elementary, Everitt Middle , Brady High, Alameda middle and high, Rose Stein Elementary.  There are about 4000 students by our estimates that could use food supplements weekly.   The poverty of Title One children causes hunger and trauma to their souls. We are the answer to the cry of their hearts for help. 

We will be doing fund raisers soon for purchases of small economical white refrigerator and freezer units .  We need to raise $ 2500.00 .

 

                                                                        Learn more at www.jeffcoeats.org    We need units at our packing facilities at Foothills Elementary and St. Paul’s Episcopal and some of the schools want units to keep a greater supply of fresh and frozen items.  Please consider becoming a regular monthly donor with Jeffco Eats. 

We will increase weekly produce this year from purchases at Food Bank of the Rockies, fresh produce from large farms we have a relationship with and grow some of our own produce. Shelf stable produce like potatoes, onions and carrots are easy to keep food safe and for the children to carry home in their weekend food bags. 

                           Please go to www.metrovolunteers.org or signup.com to see our weekly                 volunteering opportunities. 

 

 Barbara Moore, Executive Director. 

PS – please Like Us  https://www.facebook.com/jeffcoeats/

Volunteers for 2018 to help reduce hunger www.jeffcoeats.org

We wrote a grant last week to CO BIZ and were amazed to see that we had over 2800 hours of service by our supporters.  We have about 40 volunteers a week helping in picking up food, driving food to schools and packing the weekend food bags.

 

 

We will have a few big events this year and will need about 100 volunteers for those dates.  If you are working for a corporation that gets paid time off to volunteer we would love to talk with you.

 

 

  • Please email jeffcoeats@gmail.com and Barbara Moore Executive Director will set a time to come and speak with you.  

We do desire children, teens, young adults to seniors to be a diverse group and organization.  One regular helper brings her son in his backpack and he rests on her while she walks about picking up seven items a 100 times.  The children of Foothills Elementary get to have the privilege of helping for an hour on a rotation. The community liaison shares with them reminders about helping others.  They just shout out sometimes how happy they are to do this work.  Food Bank of the Rockies is our program provider for our food.  We get canned foods, fresh foods and items rescued from grocery stores.

We work in food policy groups in the city also.  We are active members of the Jefferson County Food Policy Council.  Together we can end hunger.  We support the bill in the Colorado legislature right now to end hunger .

We were featured in the Jefferson County Schools News last week: Foothills ES & Jeffco Eats

Foothills Elementary School welcomed a special helper January 5! Phil Weiser, a candidate for Colorado Attorney General, volunteered his time to support Jeffcoeats Weekend Food Program at Foothills, the hub for Jeffco Eats. They process and fill over 500 grocery bags of food that is distributed and delivered to 12 Jeffco Public Schools every week. Students who participate receive a free bag of food every Friday to supplement their family weekend food needs. It was a pleasure having Phil and his team help out!

 

To volunteer :

http://www.signup.com

or

 

Metro Volunteers http:www.metrovolunteers.org

 

Volunteer as a group with us at Food bank of Rockies this year

It is January and the whole year is ahead of us.  We ask you to consider volunteering at Food Bank of Rockies our partner agency.  We will get credit to buy food for the children from your hours served.  This is such a worthy cause and you help two programs that support alleviating hunger with one four hour shift.  We are registered as Harvest Mountain Ministries so when you sign up as a group use this name.  We do business as Jeffco Eats, but our ein name as a non profit with Food bank Rockies is Harvest Mountain Ministries.   Here is list of variety of ways your group could help. The link to sign up is :
https://www.foodbankrockies.org/volunteer/
Opportunities

Assistance is primarily needed Monday – Friday, 8:45 am – 12:00 pm and 12:15 pm – 3:30 pm. We also have Saturday opportunities that fill up quickly. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old (accompanied by an adult) or 16 years old to volunteer on their own. Volunteers must be 18 years or older to volunteer in our kitchen. For Saturdays, prior authorization is required for younger volunteers.

  • Distribution

    Pull and build orders from warehouse inventory for our member agencies. Requires the ability to repetitively lift 10-30 lb cases.
    This is the area we need help most!

  • Reclamation

    Inspect, clean, sort and box items received through food drives and grocery rescue before they are distributed to clients. This area requires an attention to detail and is a low-impact/physical area.

  • USDA – CSFP Box Packing

    Work in an assembly line filling boxes for the USDA’s CSFP food program. A variety of positions within this area are available from low impact to physical tasks. For groups 10 or larger.

    Only available select days

  • Community Kitchen

    Help prepare meals for our Kid’s Cafe program. Work may include prepping food, cooking, cleaning, and other duties. Must be 18 for this area.

    Limited availability, long term volunteers desired.

  • Produce Sorting

    Sort through bulk produce so that we can get quality nutritious fruits and vegetables to our partner agencies. A variety of positions are available in this area and is great for groups.

    When available.

     

  • TEFAP Nome Street

    Pull and build orders at our warehouse for agencies participating in USDA food distribution programs. This opportunity is located at 3900 Nome ST, Unit T, Denver, CO 80239. Requires the ability to repetitively lift 10-20 lbs.

    Only available select days

  • After School Snacks

    Build snack orders for our agencies that participate in the after school snacks for tutoring program and then transport the orders to the waiting vehicles from our warehouse.

    Available on Tuesdays.

  • Totes of Hope™ Programs

    Build totes for children and load them into vehicles for our agencies.

    Available on Fridays.

  • Office Work

    Assist with mailings, non-solicitation phone calls, filing and/or other miscellaneous tasks.

    Available on a very limited basis.

Seeking Corporate Groups to volunteer with Jeffco Eats

It is a great social ethic today for companies like First Bank to give employees hours each year to leave work and go volunteer to make a difference.  We had a group come two weeks ago from the corporate human resource department and their smiles and hands made a big difference in our ability to pack the 300 + food totes that Friday morning.

A goal that is very strategic for Jeffco Eats for 2018 is to partner with local businesses to grow and serve the over 4,000 children who need our help in Lakewood, Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and Arvada this year.

Here is how you can help:  First, is that you work for a company that has a volunteer hours to serve program and benefit. Second is to sign up to pack food totes on a Friday morning at Foothills Elementary.  We can take a group up to 25 in size.

Go to :  Metro Volunteers –

Go to:  Face book @ Jeffco Eats –

The second opportunity is to volunteer at Food Bank of Rockies as a group on our behalf.  We will get credit for your hours served to buy additional food items for our school children we serve weekly.

To sign up go to:  www.foodbankrockies.org  and click on VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME

Schedule a shift in Denver, volunteer matrix, I am scheduling my group,

If you would like to offer to your employees on their giving platforms the opportunity to support Jeffco Eats monthly we can provide all of our non profit credentials with the secretary of state.  We are also recruiting for Board Advisers from corporations .  We need short term project advisory help. Contact Executive Director Barbara Moore at jeffcoeats@gmail.com for a meeting in this regard.

> 50,199 pounds distributed in 2017 to reduce hunger Jeffco Eats

We are pleased to announce that during 2017 Jeffco Eats has brought over 50,199 pounds of food to our program schools and the precious children.  We have also brought fresh produce and fresh vegetables from a few farms .  We love to serve and cannot wait to see what 2018 brings. We will grow together as we believe people want to help others.

Love to have you get involved with us wherever in the world you are. We are missionaries of sorts and serve children with backgrounds from all over the planet.

 

NBC Today Show promoting Kids Backpack program for Feeding America in Connecticut

Connecticut has a big program for backpacks and our program is much smaller today. Jeffco Eats is a program provider with Food Bank of the Rockies which is part of Feeding America network.  This article gives some good facts to consider.

Kids’ BackPack Program: Great, But Not Enough

24/Oct/16 / 17:41

by Bernie Beaudreau

Claudette Glassman has been the school nurse at Saving Community School for 19 years.

Claudette Glassman has been the school nurse at Savin Rock Community School for 19 years.

Claudette Glassman has been the school nurse at Savin Rock Community School in West Haven for 19 years.  I stopped to speak with her on Friday as we were in the school for a taping with a team from NBC’s Today Show promoting the Kids’ Backpack program for Feeding America.  The Connecticut Food Bank Kids’ Backpack program provides a packet of two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks every Friday for 3,300 school children in 111 schools in 22 school districts across the state.

“The need has grown over the years,” Claudette told me.  She was talking about the growing number of school kids in need of food assistance.  Claudette is part of a staff team that identifies children at risk for hunger on the weekends.  The packs are discreetly given to the children on Friday afternoons before they go home for the weekend.  As a key point of contact for kids with health issues or other problems, Claudette has a strong knowledge of the children and their home situations. She told me that she keeps a clothes closet with donated items or basics that she purchases using her own money to help children when she knows their families are unable to provide something like a winter coat or when a child might need a change of clothes during the day that families may not have resources to provide.

 

She told me of a little girl that came by asking for her backpack a day early because she knew that there would be little to eat at home that evening.  The little girl is here from Holland with her mother.  They’re undocumented and the mom had been unable to find work until recently.  But that work doesn’t pay enough to support the family.  Claudette says that, while the Kids’ Backpack program has been very helpful for 40 of the school’s children, it could easily double in scope and not fully serve all children in need.

 

Nutrition affects healthy development and educational outcomes for children. Conversations with Claudette Glassman and teachers at the school bear this out. Shana Limauro a second grade teacher at the school, told us that she can tell by their behavior and energy levels when her students haven’t had food in the morning before coming to school. She also noted that, by 2:00PM, her young students are starting to run out of steam and they rely on the fuel snack time provides to help them work well up to dismissal time at 3:20PM. Imagine what a day without breakfast, perhaps a substandard lunch and no snack might feel like for a young, growing child. It certainly wouldn’t make learning easy.

 

Savin Rock School has just under 500 students, 79 percent of whom are from low-income families, making them eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The school provides breakfast and lunch for these children, who often eat significantly less food or less nutritious food at home on the weekends. While the Connecticut Food Bank investment in the Kids’ BackPack program is considerable, that investment does not meet even half of the need at most participating schools.

 

We surveyed those schools in June and the responses indicated that the program is widely appreciated and most schools wish they had a larger allocation of backpacks because there are so many more kids in need.

 

As the Today Show team interviewed seven students receiving the weekly Kids’ Backpack support, we heard some of their heart-wrenching experiences with hunger at home.  One fifth grade girl

Savin Rock Community School students in grades two through five who participate in the Kids' BackPack program.

Savin Rock Community School students in grades two through five who participate in the Kids’ BackPack program.

said, “I feel really sad when mom tells us she doesn’t have enough money to get groceries.  Once we had some peanut butter but didn’t have bread to make a sandwich.” The same child talked about fishing coins out of ponds in parks and scavenging items left behind by people fishing in those ponds. That’s not how a child should have to find food.

 

We were all shaken hearing the difficult stories from these children, and gained a stronger appreciation of the importance of the Kids’ Backpack program for the kids and their families.  It is not a complete solution by any stretch.  But it helps children in a very direct and significant way.

 

But we must find ways to expand our reach and potentially offer more help to whole families. At the Connecticut Food Bank, we are looking at ways to go from Kids’ BackPack to Kids’ BackPack “Plus.” That “Plus” will be a more robust intervention to connect the families of children receiving a backpack with our broader network of food pantries and our Mobile Pantry, as well as other resources to lift them out of poverty and food insecurity.  The idea is that these families, connected to more help and tools, will no longer need a backpack for their child, allowing that food to be passed on to the next child on the waiting list.  So instead of only 40 kids at Savin Rock School getting the help of the backpack program, potentially 80 or 120 could receive this help in a given school year.

 

Bonnie Hutson, Savin Rock Community School Family Resource Center staff, left and paraprofessional Gaelle Frazer, right, distribute food packages to students.

Bonnie Hutson, Savin Rock Community School Family Resource Center staff, left and paraprofessional Gaelle Frazer, right, distribute food packages to students.

When you get close to the reality of child hunger in our communities and hear children talk about their hunger and how they worry for their families, it is hard to not feel anger that there is such deep poverty with so many families and children are deprived of our most basic need.  It makes you more determined than ever to find a solution.  Our Kids’ Backpack program is part of that solution, but we should not feel satisfied that we’ve done enough until school nurses like Claudette Glassman can smile and say hungry children in their school used to be a big problem, but not anymore.

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