Food Bank’s BackPack Program vital source of nutrition to some area children





Designed to provide extra support on weekends for children who receive free or reduced-priced lunches at school, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s BackPack Program provides a backpack full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods for children to take home on the weekends when school meals are not available. For many of these children, this backpack is their only source of food when school is not in session.

Designed to provide extra support on weekends for children who receive free or reduced-priced lunches at school, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s BackPack Program provides a backpack full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods for children to take home on the weekends when school meals are not available. For many of these children, this backpack is their only source of food when school is not in session.

Editor’s Note: View Newspaper Group and Genisys Credit Union are proud to partner with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in their HUNGER ACTION MONTH fundraising drive by placing donation envelopes in our papers Sept. 8. The following is the second of three articles that will provide information about the Food Bank and how even small donations can make a big difference. Please consider donating to this deserving cause.

FLINT — Right now there are more than 16 million children in the U.S. living in households that are struggling to put food on the table. That’s one in every five kids going hungry. Because of this alarming statistic, many schools have implemented programs to provide free or reducedprice breakfasts and lunches. But what happens when those children leave school? That’s where the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (FBEM) comes in.

Kelly Belcher, the marketing and communications manager for FBEM, says that the organization maintains a number of programs in order to combat issues like these. One of these programs includes their BackPack Program, which attempts to reduce child hunger, educate students and families on proper nutrition and to promote healthy lifestyles. The program began in 2004 with 50 backpacks in two elementary schools. Currently, this program serves nearly 7,000 children in more than 160 schools throughout 22 counties in northeast Michigan.

“Our BackPack Program is a weekend meal program for children who are in school and are eligible for free or reduced lunches,” explained Belcher. “This way, they have something on the weekends when those school lunches aren’t there. For a lot of the kids, this is the only food they have at home, the food they get in their backpack.”

Hunger and malnutrition both take a massive toll on the overall health of children — even more so than adults — and can permanently alter their development, resulting in a vicious cycle that has been proven to perpetuate poverty. When children are worried about food security and hunger, they’re not thinking about the things that children should be thinking about, like schoolwork and social interaction, which leads to a decline in performance and social-skill building, setting them back and potentially altering the course of their life for the worse.

“For $100, we can supply a child with a backpack every weekend for an entire school year,” said Belcher. “Because of the ways we’re able to leverage the dollar, each backpack only costs us about $2.50 for the whole weekend. And I don’t think people realize how great the need is for programs like this. The kids really come to look forward to getting their backpacks. They rely on this.”

The Food Bank does not receive government funding for this program, and relies on the donations and volunteer efforts of the surrounding communities. Volunteers and site personnel are essential in order to have a successful Backpack Program. According to Belcher, those who wish to donate are able to donate to specific schools if they so choose. Those interested in donating or volunteering should contact Kathleen Payton at 810-396-0227.

In order to continue serving the men, women and children of eastern Michigan, the Food Bank hosts and participates in a number of great events throughout the year that bring the community together in support of the fight against hunger. Thanks to a partnership between Genisys Credit Union and View Newspaper Group, the Food Bank will raffle off a “Wheelbarrow of Cheer” filled with craft beer at the 4th annual View Brew Fest set for 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at Louie’s Sports Tavern in Lapeer. Tickets for the raffle cost just $5, which can provide 30 meals for people who struggle with hunger and would otherwise go without. More info and tickets to View Brew Fest can be found at www.mihomepaper.com. For more information on the Food Bank, please visit www.fbem.org.


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