Hallways that sat silent from June through August are now filled with the rush of returning students busily moving from class to class. Naturally, kids are sad to see summer go but catching up with friends makes the return to school much easier. For some students, being back brings relief because they know they don’t have to worry about being hungry, especially on the weekend.
In Weld County, 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger. Growing up hungry brings with it a lot of disadvantages. If a child does not get enough nutritious food, they fall behind physically, cognitively, academically, emotionally and socially. Over 50% of students in our county qualify for free or reduced price school meals. These meals are not available over the weekend, putting students at a higher risk of hunger. That’s where Weld Food Bank’s Backpack Program comes in. Through this program we provide food for children who have been identified by school counselors and teachers as being in great need of food over the weekend.
Twice a month, volunteers fill the packs with child friendly food including shelf stable milk, juice, a high protein meal, and three or four snacks. Then every Friday with the help of volunteers we drop the packs at schools for the children to take home. Currently, the Backpack Program operates at schools in Greeley, Evans, Windsor, Fort Lupton, Milliken, Hudson, Lochbuie, Keenesburg, Platteville, Gilcrest, Dacono, Frederick, Firestone, and LaSalle.
During the 2015/2016 school year, we distributed over 22,100 backpacks to students across Weld County.
Stats are sometimes hard to paint the true picture of our programs’ impact. To show how exactly we help kids in our community, we want to share Amber’s story with you.
Amber is a fourth grader at a local school. She qualifies for the free school breakfast and lunch program which she makes sure to never miss before class starts. Recently, she began to show a significant behavior problem that impacted her success in school. Several times Amber was caught taking other students’ lunches and snacks, particularly on Fridays. She would hide the food in her pockets, backpack and desk. After her teacher discussed the problem with her, Amber confessed that she was saving it for the weekend because her and her siblings didn’t really have anything to eat at home. So, her teacher and principal started purchasing food with their own money for Amber to take home on the weekend. Not too long afterwards, Weld Food Bank’s Backpack Program began at her school and Amber became a recipient. According to her principal, she is an excited and enthusiastic child when it comes to getting her food for the weekend. One Friday, she even exclaimed, “I used to hate Fridays, but not anymore. Now I love them because I get this food.” Best of all, she does not take snacks or lunches from her classmates anymore.
You can help children like Amber by supporting Weld Food Bank and our direct service programs, including the Backpack Program. Among other things, a $100 donation could provide one child with food every weekend throughout the entire school year. That’s an average of 35 weeks!