Backpack meals

Published in the Argus Observer on January 4, 2015.    This is the second in a series.  

Students whose parents work on the weekends, or who don’t have enough food at home can receive edible supplies through the Idaho Food Bank’s backpack program. Idaho schools can apply for the program and receive a certain amount of food stuffs, depending upon the population of students who live under the poverty line.

“It’s geared to help kids that are low income and that may have parents that work on the weekend and they don’t have someone helping them with meals,: said Denise Lundberg, councilor at Weiser School District.

Every Friday, students who qualify receive a pre-made bag, stocked with a variety of food items. Lundberg said the bags can include snack items, fruit cups, breakfast cereals, cans of soup and stew, and other microwavable, single-serving items.

“The bags fit into their backpacks, we do it very confidentially,” Lundberg said. “The biggest criteria is financial need, to help them throughout the weekends. Most of them are on free and reduced at school.”

School districts get a monthly delivery from the Idaho Food Bank to a central location and then the food is rationed out through the district.

“It’s been a very good program,” Lundberg said. “It’s funded through donations through the food bank.”

The backpack program is focused on the child, Lundberg explained, and doesn’t have enough food to supply an entire family.

“If the whole family is needing more we have the food pantry,” she said. “[It is called the] school pantry program, and we have food pantry here at the school for families in our district., They can access that at any time.”

The food pantry is also provided through the Idaho Food Bank and is stocked by donations.

With the winter break around the corner, Lundberg said their district has planned ahead and will have the food pantry open for families. The district will also be giving out an extra week’s supply of food in the backpack program.

“It’s pretty neat they have enough,” Lundberg said. “We plan ahead with them and they give us an extra week’s supply, so we give out two bags for each child that week.”

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