Twice a month throughout the school year, more than 4,000 Northeast Tennessee children receive a pack of nutritious, child-friendly meal and snack items from Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.
Distributed to the children at their schools, the Food for Kids Backpack Program helps sustain the region’s most chronically hungry children through weekends and holidays — times when school breakfasts and lunches are not available to them. For many of these children, these packs provide the only nutrition they will receive until they return to school.
“There have been times when I have done without to make sure that my daughter had something to eat. The Food for Kids Backpack Program allows both my daughter and me to have something to eat at the same time,” one parent told Second Harvest staff.
Second Harvest is asking for help from the community to support this program. The food bank has been asked to add more students identified as chronically hungry to its Backpack Program for the current school year, bringing the total number up to 4,098 children being served in 135 schools in all 15 school districts in all eight counties. This is a 14 percent increase over the number of children served last year, and a 38 percent increase over the number served two years ago.
The Backpack Program is a collaborative partnership with area schools to identify chronically hungry children attending elementary, middle and high schools throughout the region. These children identified as being most at-risk for chronic hunger come to class hungry, are less able to focus on learning, may appear malnourished, complain of hunger, and often hoard food at lunch. All of the students served by this program are defined as economically disadvantaged students by the state of Tennessee.
The program is free to the child and school. The program is supported by grants and donations from individuals, businesses, churches and community groups. A donation of $93 provides a full year’s distribution (15 packs) for one child. Each pack contains several entree meals, plus cereals, fruits, juices and milk.
Second Harvest developed a “Sponsor-a-Child” giving program to help fund the Backpack Program. Approximately 500 more sponsors are needed to assist the food bank in meeting the increased need for the current school year and provide food for hungry children in your community.
For more information about Second Harvest’s Food for Kids Backpack Program and how you can sponsor a child, call 477-4053 or visit www.netfoodbank.org.