By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
Judy Hudson, the social worker at Rehoboth Elementary School, is the school coordinator for the Food Bank of Delaware’s Backpack Program, but she quickly credits two faithful PTO volunteers as “the energy behind the distribution.”
Statewide, the program serves 4,382 students in 115 schools. Students are referred into the program, rather than based on income requirements or eligibility for free and reduced lunches.
The Food Bank of Delaware’s Backpack Program provides food to children in need 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, meals such as macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs and beef stew, granola bars, apple sauce, cereal and more.
Food and informational flyers for the backpacks are packed by volunteers, and the Food Bank of Delaware delivers the bags to participating sites weekly. Site staff stores the bags in a secure area until distribution day.
Dependent upon availability, school supplies are also distributed in the take-home bags.
So each week, the Food Bank trucks deliver 99 backpacks to the Rehoboth school’s back door where they are unloaded by the custodial staff, and then every Thursday volunteers Carrie Robertson and Sandy Monigle take the bags around.
Since these moms are sensitive to how differently older children respond to receiving the bag, they have one system for younger kids and another for those in grades 4 and 5.
Second grade teacher Keri Mitchell places the bags in her students’ backpacks.
“The little ones are very thankful because they will now have food in the house for the weekend. This really helps the whole family,” Mitchell said.
At H.O. Brittingham, another elementary school in the Cape Henlopen School District, Katina Powell is the school secretary and also the designated school coordinator for the past three years.
Powell accepted the responsibility because she was all too aware of the need; of the school’s 583 students, 82 percent live in poverty.
“Who can say no,” she said, adding that she relies on a paraprofessional to distribute the bags to students.
“The Food Bank trucks come on Wednesday, and we take them on Thursday.”
She can see that students love the backpacks.
“It’s done discreetly. If it’s not there, they are looking for it. It’s something that shows we care. The littlest thing, they are appreciative for. We do coat drives, Christmas drives and Thanksgiving drives. We are the only school in my district that has this type of poverty. We do the best we can to make it work,” she said.
To learn more about the Backpack Program, please contact Alina Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 292-1305 ext 210.
It costs approximately $158 to provide one child with weekend and holiday food for a whole school year. This includes the cost of food for each week, supplies, transportation and program administration. To sponsor a child, call Larry Haas, Development Director, at (302) 294-0185 or email him at email@example.com.