By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
More than half the students at W. Reily Brown Elementary School get a backpack full of weekend meals to take home with them each Friday.
Dr. Wendy Whitehurst, the school’s assistant principal, said the school on Dover’s south side, has been participating in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Backpack Program since 2010.
The food, she said, really makes a difference in the students’ lives.
“We realized that 77 percent of the 409 students live in poverty,” she said, so parents are offered an opportunity to enroll their children into the program.
Here’s how it works: At-risk children are identified by school personnel, and it’s called the Backpack Program because a plastic bag filled with nutritionally sound and kid-friendly food, enough for the weekend, are placed in a child’s backpack.
During the 2013-14 school year, 4,692 children in Delaware received weekend food through this backpack program at 125 sites state-wide.
At first, Reily Brown’s school administrators were a bit concerned that those students receiving the bag of food might be stigmatized.
Actually, it’s been the opposite: everyone wants to be a Backpack Buddy.
Each school in the program handles the distribution a bit differently, based on staffing and volunteers. Food Bank of Delaware trucks deliver the backpacks to each school every week. At Reily Brown, custodians place boxes next to the classroom door; the teachers indicate the amount by a sticky note placed outside the door.
“It’s really helped many of our students,” said Dr. Whitehurst.
“We have heard teachers say that it’s a blessing. It’s a necessity. We’re a 100 percent Title 1 program. If the parents feel they need it. We make sure they get it,” she added.
In addition, the school takes advantage of the Food Bank’s After-School Nutrition Program. Dr. Whitehurst said each Tuesday and Thursday students participate in a phonics/ reading program.
“They get a snack and a drink, and then they go to their lesson,” she said.
“They really look forward to it, and it’s appreciated.”
To learn more about the Backpack Program, visit http://www.fbd.org/program/children%E2%80%99s-nutrition-program/backpack-program/.