Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Backpack Program

We love watching the Food Network. One of our favorites is ‘Chopped’, a cooking show where chefs compete for a $10,000 prize. On a recent episode the competitors were actually school cafeteria chefs, there to raise awareness about the importance of good meals for kids.

Now I’m sure we all have memories from our youth of school cafeteria workers. Whether your memories are good ones or bad ones, there’s no question that the cafeteria staff are hard workers, and these four ladies were no exception. What surprised me was how much they connected with the kids in their school. These ladies knew what the kids were learning, and sometimes incorporated food that would go along with the day’s lesson. They hide vegetables in ways so the kids don’t know they are actually eating something good for them. And some even have Pasta Mondays so the kids can get the carbs they need to begin the week. These ladies work hard to serve a meal that adheres to very strict nutritional guidelines, and something the kids will like, all for about $1.25 each.

But the thing that had the most impact (and something I’ve never heard of before now) was the Backpack Program. Many times the only good meal the kids get is at school. Sometimes the kids get little to no food on the weekends, and much of the time the food they do get has no nutritional value. The lunch ladies, along with volunteers, pack food into backpacks which are sent home on Fridays with kids who are likely to go hungry over the weekend.

My oldest daughter teaches Fifth Grade at a school where they have the Backpack Program, and 90 percent of the students are on a free or reduced lunch plan. In today’s economy, and with both parents working, single parents struggling to make ends meet or grandparents raising their grandchildren on a fixed income, this program seems like a great way to get food to the children who need it the most.

According to the USDA, over 16 million children (22 %) lived in low or very low food security households in 2010. Research indicates that hungry children do more poorly in school and have lower academic achievement because they are not well prepared for school and cannot concentrate.

The problem of childhood hunger is not simply a moral issue. Child hunger hampers a young person's ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult. Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens. (source)

I urge you to watch this episode. If I’m reading this right, it looks like this episode will air again. Click the link to see the times. This episode is a very emotional one, especially when the ladies were recognized for their talents as a chef rather than just a ‘lunch lady’. Really, this is one you will want to watch.

There are many programs to help with child hunger in the U.S. Whether it be the Backpack Program or another charity, I urge you to consider helping out as a volunteer or by donations. And what better time than the holidays to begin.


rockcreekcreations said...

My school district has a backpack program also. It is good to know that kids will eat even on the weekends. Our school district even has a summer free lunch program. No questions asked. It's sad that it's needed.

In the Light of the Moon said...

Sweet Alice,thank you for posting this..this time of year it is so easy to forget that so many little ones go hungry...we get caught up in busy busy of the holiday season...I am thankful for you and for reminding us.Blessings,Cat

Lori P said...

WONDERFUL post. Thank you so much for talking about this important issue. I'm checking into watching this.

My Life Under the Bus said...

The town over from ours had a huge article on this and it was heartbreaking. They layed out a weekends worth of food for a ten year old and it was bare. Comparing it to what my kids eat I wanted to cry. Then thinking about many of the kids sharing what's in their back pack with siblings that aren't in school yet makes you realize how little these poor kids are getting. Thank God for it!