GENESEE COUNTY — Recently Genisys Credit Union partnered with The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s Backpack Program to provide nourishment to students of the Elmer Knopf Learning Center, located in Flint and operated by the Genesee Intermediate School District. Over $8,000 in donations were provided by the Genisys staff and its members, helping to feed approximately 100 students. The students of Elmer Knopf coordinated the effort with a team of leaders comprised of staff and students to oversee the project, giving students valuable real-life work experience.
The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s Backpack Program provides students receiving free or reduced priced lunches with nutritious food to be taken home on weekends. Each weekend backpack contains two breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. The program began in 2004 with 50 backpacks in two elementary schools but has expanded to over 8,200 children in more than 160 schools throughout 22 counties in Eastern Michigan. The cost to provide one student with a weekend backpack for the entire year is $100.
While the program has been a great success, the need for assistance still remains. There are 24,000 children who are food insecure in Genesee County alone; the Backpack Program currently has enough funding to provide for 2,000 students.
The Elmer Knopf Learning Center, located in Flint, is a special needs learning center that provides schooling to students identified as moderately cognitively impaired and autism spectrum disorder.
The staff of the Elmer Knopf Learning Center wanted to utilize The Backpack Program as a tool to train students with skills that will benefit them in the workforce post-graduation. The Elmer Knopf Backpack Team consists of staff representatives from each department within the school, two social workers and student representatives. The students learnto follow checklists, sort and pack food, and make deliveries to classrooms.