What about when school is out?
Nearly one in six children in Montana currently live in food insecure households, unsure of where their next meal will come from. Programs such as Free and Reduced Price School Meals help ensure that at-risk children receive food during the school day, but what about when school is out?
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – Dr. Seuss
The BackPack Program’s purpose is to improve students’ academic performance and physical health by providing them with the nutritious food necessary for them to learn, thrive, and grow, rather focusing on than the effects of chronic hunger. In 1995, the program was piloted in Little Rock, AR as the result of a school nurse noticing signs and symptoms of hunger in some students. In 2006, BackPack became an official program of Feeding America, the national hunger-fighting organization, and not long after Montana Food Bank Network began working to implement the program in Montana.
In late 2007, Montana Food Bank Network presented the BackPack program to DeSmet School in Missoula. The school administration recognized the value and presented it to the student body. The school decided to roll out Montana’s first BackPack program in January 2008 and is still serving 40 students each week! Since that time, enthusiasm for the program has spread throughout the state and MFBN currently provides BackPack meals at 106 sites in 46 communities throughout Montana.
The program provides bags filled with food that is child-friendly, non-perishable, and easily prepared at home. BackPack bags are discreetly distributed to children on the last day before the weekend or school holiday to ensure that children have enough to eat when away from school meals. Each BackPack bag contains enough food for one child to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and snacks on Saturday and Sunday as well as milk, juice, and a treat! When elementary students are referred through their school coordinator, any preschool siblings at home are automatically enrolled and receive their own BackPack bag each week.
For more information about the program in your area, contact Stephanie Stratton, Chief Programs Officer