A State Senator from Philadelphia is calling on more food banks across the state to launch “Weekend Backpack” programs for needy children. The programs pack the knapsacks full of nutritious easy to prepare food and then send them home with students after school Friday and before holidays. The goal is to bridge the kids to Monday morning when they get back to school breakfast and lunch programs. Sen. LeAnna Washington says it is great that the programs can get healthy food to children at risk of hunger in a way that is discreet and easily accessible. Kitchen says fighting hunger also helps to fight school problems, “Studies show that hungry and food-insecure students are 1.4 times more likely to repeat a grade, 1.6 times more likely to miss days of school, and twice as likely to require special education or be suspended from school.” Food Banks in Westmoreland County, Central Pennsylvania, York County and Lehigh Valley currently run Weekend Backpack Programs. Among the items in the backpacks: macaroni and cheese, canned soup, tuna meals, canned fruit, pudding, peanut butter and fruit juice.
The concept of the Weekend Backpack Program originated in Arkansas, when a school nurse noticed a large amount of students with upset stomachs, complaining of dizziness. It was later discovered that those students were not sick but hungry.