Bestowing ‘blessings’ to those in need
Trinity High School students fill bags with juice, oatmeal, noodles, fruit snacks and popcorn for the Blessings in a Backpack program.
Trinity High School students Jamie Satryan, 17, and Jamar Chandler, 19, help pack food products for the Blessings in a Backpack program. The program provides easy-to-make food for those on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program for the weekend. The Blessings in a Backpack program recently started at Trinity North Elementary School.
Photos by Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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About 160 elementary school students at Trinity North have been heading home for the weekend with backpacks stuffed with more than school books and pencils.
They’re filled with food.
Since January, the elementary school has partnered with CentiMark Corp. to participate in the Blessings in a Backpack initiative.
Blessings in a Backpack is a national program that provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal free and reduced-price meal program with a backpack of food to take home on weekends during the school year. The nonprofit organization, started in 2005, currently feeds more than 62,000 children in 437 schools across 41 U.S. states and three countries – Canada, Columbia and Haiti.
“It provides a little bit of a cushion for families in need, to help them get through the weekend. The kids look forward to it,” said Dr. Beth Tully, Trinity North principal.
Data compiled by Blessings in a Backpack – named Charity of the Year by People Magazine’s First Help Feed A Child Campaign – shows that one in six children in the United States is at risk of hunger.
For Tully, who coordinates the weekly food pickups at Walmart, the consequences of hunger are more serious than simply a growling stomach: poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, lower IQ, shorter attention spans and lower academic achievement.
Improved school attendance, test scores, behavior and health have been attributed to the program.
While it’s too soon to tell if the program has had an impact on academics, Tully said the children are excited about picking up their bags on Fridays.
Backpack food includes easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods, like granola bars, fruit snacks, juice boxes, macaroni and cheese, pop tarts, ramen noodles and oatmeal.
A small group of volunteers, including high school students who earn community service hours, fill the backpacks each Thursday, and the bags are distributed the next day.
It costs $80 to feed one child during the 38-week school year.
CentiMark, which helped start Blessings in a Backpack in Washington School District, has pledged to fund Trinity North’s program through the end of the school year.
“CentiMark is proud to support Blessings in a Backpack at two schools in Washington. Good nutrition during the school day and over the weekends is a key component of success for children,” said Kathy Slencak, manager of public relations for CentiMark.
Tully said the school district is seeking community sponsors to team up with the district to continue the program.
“Hopefully, we’ll get enough sponsorships to keep it going,” said Tully.
To make a donation to Blessings in a Backpack, please contact Chairman Sandra Clutter at 724-228-7910.