The initiative to keep students fed is well underway with the inception, execution, and success of the Backback Project which sends kids home from school with nutritious meals for the weekend.
The program is finally up and running after its start last Friday when 19 schoolchildren from Kent Elementary took their bags home with them for the first time. This is largely due to the $20,000 that was raised by the community to see the project realized.
Bellies will be filled and more importantly anxieties will be eased as parents are assured that their children are not going hungry.
“All the kids were excited to get their backpacks,” said District Child Care Counsellor Donna Reich.
The children receive their bags in a confidential manner, so they are not singled out, which allows them to maintain a level of anonymity.
Generous donations from the community have seen this program come to fruition, while securing enough funds to keep the program going until fall of next year.
The project is in partnership with Agassiz Harrison Community Services, where donations can be made out to the Backpack Project.
Every Thursday evening volunteers from The Youth Centre fill the bags with food that has been collected by the organization and they are dropped off at school the next morning.
Backpacks are filled with staples and necessities like beans, pasta and pasta sauces, fresh fruits, vegetables and canned salmon or tuna.
“We try to make the bags as nutritious as possible and we are consulting with a nutritionist for the menu,” said Reich.
Reich got the idea for the program, based on the existing breakfast program, after discovering that many of the kids who weren’t eating breakfast, were also going hungry on weekends.
“I thought if they aren’t eating on the weekdays, then they are not eating on the weekends, and so I discovered a need.”
Similar programs also exist in nearby communities like Mission that gave Reich the push to move forward.
“A year and a half later and with the help of Community Services as well as a whack of support, families are getting the help they need,” said Reich.
Thanks to the many contributors including Agassiz United Church, Agassiz Christian Reformed Church, Rosedale Grocery, Hub International, Epicure Foundation, Allenby Farm Store, District of Kent and the Agassiz Harrison Rod and Gun Club as well as a few anonymous donors who contributed to this project, there will be enough funding to see the initiative through to next fall.
“This truly wouldn’t be happening without their partnership and we’re thrilled to have it happening — it’s made my whole year,” said Reich.
There are multiple benefits to having food security and one of them is improved clarity, focus, and less behavioural concerns.
“There is reduced anxiety and the students can concentrate and get through the day without worrying about food, or being hungry, it’s beneficial for everyone.”
All donations can be dropped of at Agassiz Harrison Community Services and they must be directed specifically to the Backpack Project.