How can a child focus on solving a math problem or memorizing a new word when she or he is trying to ignore the persistent pangs of hunger?
Across the country, teachers and school nurses have found that in some instances, Monday morning comes and they are forced to compete against hunger for the attention of their students. More than 18 million children qualify for free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program, the fuel that they need to get them through the week. What happens to these children when they go home over the weekend?
“A few years ago we realized that some of our families were in need of extra snacks on the weekends,” said Monica Hardin, Moore County Schools Supervisor of Coordinated School Health. “We decided to try to help these folks by supplying them with nutritional snacks every Friday. Our Backpack Friday program was born.
“Every Friday nutritional snacks for the weekend are put in bags and placed in the child’s backpack when no one is in the classroom. The selected students are aware what the snacks are for and take them home for weekend use.
“We are lucky to be supported by Second Harvest, but there are additional snacks we like to include in our snack bags.”
According to school officials, the program is always in need of additional food. Among the items on the immediate wish list are fruit snacks (not fresh fruit); individual size applesauce; drink boxes; individual pudding or Jell-O; individual boxes of raisins; snack bars; popcorn (to be popped in a microwave); small cookie packs; individual oatmeal packs or individual boxes of cereal; individual macaroni and cheese; tiny cans of ravioli, spaghetti, mac and cheese, etc.; snack size candy bars; and Granola Bars.
These non-perishable food items may be dropped off at LES or at the Jack Daniels Credit Union on Majors Blvd.
Surprisingly enough, even in our area, there are teachers who can tell you about a student who came to school on Monday, not reluctant to start the school week but eager to get back to school after going through Friday evening, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday without a square meal — or knowledge of a source for their next meal.
The Backpack Friday Program is a small but important part in helping those children.