Under House Bill 307, sponsored by Representative Bill Oberle and Senator Patricia Blevins, all the money from unredeemed beverage container deposits would go into a new Food Bank Support Fund. The state-managed fund would give non-profit organizations feeding the needy an opportunity to receive grants to finance their humanitarian work.
“Unemployment in Delaware is at its highest level in decades,” said Oberle. “This has caused a significant increase in the number of people in need of food assistance. The legislation is critical in securing funding for those in need.”
If the bill passes, we could use the unredeemed deposits to help fund our Backpack Program. The program provides food to at-need children for weekends and holidays when school is not in session and federal school meal programs are not available. Backpacks are stocked with kid-friendly, nutritious food including shelf-stable milk and juice, peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, apple sauce, cereal and more. They are distributed on Fridays or the last day before a holiday or vacation in a discreet manner.
It costs us $198 to fund one child with a backpack full of food for an entire school year. 1,428 children are currently participating in the program, but the state’s free and reduced-price lunch figures show that 126,801 children are eligible for the program.
“The cost to feed every child on the book as being eligible would cost us $25.1 million,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “During these tough economic times it’s so important that we funnel these unredeemed bottle deposits towards feeding the future – our children. Every dollar we can get for this program will help ensure that one less child goes to bed hungry. A possible $3 million dollars for the program would allow us to reach an additional 15,151 children.”
Forty-three sites are currently participating in the Backpack Program. According to Laurie Darling, Family Intervention Specialist at Richardson Park Elementary School, the program has been helpful to families. “This food has been very helpful for two new students in our school. Their family is struggling greatly financially and currently has no income. The food packs are enabling the family to stretch what food resources they are receiving.”
“During these challenging economic times, it’s important for the community to support feeding programs for children,” noted Fred C. Sears II, President and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation and a member of the Food Bank of Delaware’s Anti-Hunger Coalition. “Good nutrition is a key to a child’s success in school, and ultimately in life.”