Backpack Program Fills Gaps for Hungry Children

Backpack Program Fills Gaps for Hungry Children
Posted on 09/19/2018
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Launched in 1994, the Backpack Program was launched by the Arkansas Rice Depot - which is now part of the Arkansas Foodbank - to help fill weekend gaps for hungry children. This effort was so successful in Arkansas, it has been replicated at more than 160 foodbanks across the U.S. The concept is simple: teachers and school administrators work to enroll children who can benefit in the program at the beginning of the school year. A headcount is submitted to the Arkansas Foodbank, which then provides monthly food deliveries to Langston Elementary. Teachers at Langston organize and store the packages. Every Friday, packages are inconspicuously placed in the backpacks of recipient children for them to take home. The Hot Spring School District’’s Langston Aerospace and Environment Magnet School currently has 40 children enrolled with a capacity for 80 children.

Portions placed in backpacks are meant to provide three meals for the children on Saturday and Sunday. A typical menu includes non-perishable items including oatmeal, cereal, chili with beans, ravioli, fruit cups, applesauce, soup, cheese and peanut butter crackers, granola bars, and more. Items are pre-packaged into single boxes for easy and quick distribution by teachers, and simple transport home by students.

Mrs. Ami Parker is among teachers at Langston Elementary who work with the Arkansas Foodbank to receive and organize monthly food shipments, and then carefully place food packages with students.“The Backpack Program is a vital part of what we do here at Langston in meeting the needs of our students. All too often, the only time our kids have a good meal to eat is when they are here at school.  Then, Friday comes along. There are 64 hours in a weekend- and, that’s a long time to go with an empty stomach. This program puts food in the bellies of children who would otherwise go hungry,” she said.

“I have personally witnessed the impact of this program in the lives of my students. I have seen an unemployed mother’s eyes full of grateful tears.  I have placed food in the backpack of children who tell me they will hide it and ration what they’ve received to last through the weekend. I am thankful for this program because it helps to make sure that some of the world’s most precious resources are kept safe and healthy,” she said.

The Hot Springs School District is proud to be part of many community outreach efforts like the Backpack Program to help support all of our families and students. Children with proper nourishment and full bellies in general are happier, more successful students. Through the wonderful partners at Arkansas Foodbank, 6,909 kids in 116 schools benefited from the program last year. Langston Elementary is proud to be part of community efforts in Hot Springs, and at schools across the state in helping fight child hungry one backpack at a time.

Learn more about the Arkansas Foodbank Backpack Program, here. Learn more about enrolling in this program by contacting Langston Principal Eileen Ellars, here. Learn more about Langston Aerospace and Environment Magnet School, here.
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