Designed specifically to target childhood hunger, every month our Backpack for Kids Program supplies crucial weekend meals to over 2,200 school-aged children at five local elementary schools in three Stark County school districts. Students at risk of weekend hunger receive a bag of food from which they can easily assemble four healthy, non-perishable, and kid-friendly meals to sustain them over the weekend. Students are identified by their participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), through which they receive free and reduced lunches during the school week (Monday through Friday).
For the hungry and food-insecure children of Stark County, the only meals they can count on often come from in-school initiatives. But if these children are in need Monday through Friday, what happens when they go home for the weekend without the safety net of school breakfasts and lunches? The sad truth is that these children have to worry about where their next meal will come from. They show up to school on Monday morning without having eaten enough, or very much at all. The Stark County Hunger Task Force thinks there’s something wrong with that picture, and we know you do as well.
That’s why we supports 5 Backpack Programs — three right here in the Community Campus Pantry — and two more at network members Canton Calvary Mission and Sherrick Road Church of God, who also run summer meals though the Summer Feeding Service Program (SFSP) .
1 in every 4 Stark County children is hungry, or food-insecure, meaning their families often struggle to put enough food on the table. Some live in poverty, some do not, and a hungry child looks just like any other. But the cost of childhood food insecurity is staggering, and the stakes have never been higher.
HOW DOES HUNGER IMPACT CHILDREN?*
- Lack of enough healthy food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school.
- They are more likely to be sick more often, to recover from illness more slowly, and to be hospitalized more frequently
- Increases the chance they will have significantly higher levels of behavioral, emotional and academic problems, and issues with aggression and anxiety
- They are more likely to experience headaches, stomachaches, colds, and ear infections; and they are less likely to be rated in “excellent” health vs. kids from non food-insecure homes.
- Puts them at a higher risk for classroom difficulties, including less achievement gains in math and reading, increased inattentiveness, and even repeating a grade.
In 2012, 31.5% of Stark County residents lived below 200% of the poverty level — it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that during the 2013-2014 school year, 46% of students enrolled in Stark County schools – public, private, and charter – received free or reduced lunches through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). But within the schools served by our Backpack for Kids programs, the need is even higher. A whopping 82% of all the children who attend school at the five elementary schools served by our program receive free or reduced lunch. **
Gibbs Elementary (Canton City Schools): 99.61%* *
Allen Elementary (Canton City Schools): 96.39%**
Cedar Elementary (Canton City Schools): 89.32%**
Franklin Elementary (Massillon City Schools): 81.34%**
Taft Elementary (Plain Local Schools): 57.02%**
What about the weekend? If these children are in need Monday through Friday, is there a need for Saturday and Sunday?
Of course there is a need for weekend meals – that is why we focus on these times, when the children are not receiving their free and reduced lunches. Our Backpack for Kids Program places security in these children’s hands through “backpacks” full of meals. We supply two nutritious breakfasts, two lunches, and two snacks, which are distributed by the school on Fridays. Each month, SCHTF serves packs to 2,200 children, making their weekend healthier and even a little brighter.
The Backpack for Kids Program not only helps these Stark County children come back to school on Monday better prepared to learn and concentrate — it means they can focus on being a kid on the weekend, instead of wondering if and when they will be able eat. But we need your help to serve them.
You can make a difference in the lives of 25% of our neighboring children who are hungry – and you can do it today by supporting the Backpack for Kids Program and sponsoring a child.
If you or your company would like to sponsor the Backpack for Kids Program, please contact Maureen Tate at 330-455-6667 ext. 2809, or by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Facts represent research from a variety of sources, all compiled and accessed through NoKidHungry
**All percentages collected from the Ohio Department of Education NSLP Reporting Data for the 2013-2014 school year.