CYFS Food Backpack Nutrition Program Offers a Simple Way to Make a Huge Impact in the Life of School Children
This summer, in collaboration with Peoria’s District #150, The Center for Youth and Family Solutions launched its Food Backpack Nutrition Pilot Program for school children. The program provided students at Robert Jamieson School, receiving free and reduced school meals, with a Ziploc bag of nutritious, easy-to-prepare food to eat over the weekend. Students in the program are identified by their teacher’s and the bags, which are carefully prepared by a nutritionist, are discreetly placed in the students’ backpacks before they leave school on Fridays. For many students, this food is the only opportunity to eat anything healthy for the two days.
According to Feeding America, during the 2013 federal fiscal year, more than 21.5 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals daily through the National School Lunch Program. “These kids are getting the nutrition they need while they’re at school, but once they go home, many of them are either not eating, or they’re eating junk food all weekend,” said Tim Glancy, Program Coordinator for the CYFS Youth, Family & Community Outreach Services Program. In addition to making it more difficult to pay attention in class, many teachers also report children hoarding food out of lunchrooms, taking food from others’ trays, and even finding leftovers in the trash to take home on Fridays.
Funding for the Jamieson School backpacks was provided by the United Way’s Power of the Purse Fundraiser, and CYFS is now using the remaining funds to continue the program with the school throughout the 2014 fall semester. “This program is combating a real problem in the community at a fairly low-cost to those donating,” added Glancy. “Each bag costs a $4.25; that means that someone interested in donating to the program, can sponsor a child for an entire school year for just $150. That’s a whole year’s worth of weekends that these children will be fed.”
Like many who operate programs like the Food Backpack Nutrition Program,CYFS currently relies on the generosity of donations to fund this project. We are currently looking for additional donations to continue this program, and hope to have enough funds to expand the program into other schools.