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Backpack Programs Keep Kids Full Through the Weekend

In West Virginia, over 50,000 children are considered food insecure. Our most at-risk students for hunger are also the ones who are most affected by the achievement gap, and poor academic outcomes. Administrators have found some of the kids in their care can’t function well at school not because they don’t want to learn, but because they are hungry. Oftentimes, these students rely on their school cafeterias for the majority of their nutrition during the week. This support from school lunches doesn’t exist over the weekend or during holiday breaks leaving children without adequate nutrition. With the help of community programs, the simple remedy is a backpack, that is filled with food supplies to help get kids the fuel they need to flourish.

One of Mountaineer Food Bank’s member feeding programs is the Food for Preston Backpack Program. The Food for Preston Backpack program has a group of volunteers that prep, pack, label, and deliver backpacks to school each week. These packs contain two breakfast meals, two lunches, two dinners, and two snacks created from a mix of food donations such as granola bars, fruit cups, sunflower seeds, pasta, soups, and more.

The Food for Preston Backpack Program realized the need in their area and established the program in 2011. “Our backpack program grew out of need during a Food for Preston and Preston County Schools meeting focusing on child hunger, said Tammy Laney, Food for Preston Coordinator. “We spoke of students and their families living without electricity, running water, or a reliable food source, plus unaccompanied youth hopscotching between temporary locations. The powerful words that day provided the spark to ignite our Food for Preston Backpack Program in partnership with Preston County Schools. And today, the program continues to serve weekly weekend food to hundreds of students in need.”

The Food for Preston Backpack program does more than just provide meals to students; they instill a sense of dignity and empower children facing food insecurity. By discreetly distributing the backpacks on the way to the bus, in teacher mailboxes, or even student cubbies, this program ensures children are not singled out, fostering a nurturing environment that helps reduce the stigma often associated with receiving assistance.

By providing backpacks filled with nutritious food, Food for Preston is bridging the gap between school days and offering sustenance when resources at home may be limited. “Amid continued high food costs and recently reduced SNAP assistance benefits, the Food for Preston Backpack Program will continue to serve Preston County students in need, said Tammy Laney. “Our positive partnerships, faithful donations, and enthusiastic volunteers all working together is how we fight child hunger in Preston County.”

Backpack Programs, like Food for Preston, are a lifeline for children struggling with hunger, ensuring they have access to nutritious meals and empowering them to excel academically and lead healthy lives. By supporting Mountaineer Food Bank, you help us provide food to vital programs and help lead a generation that is well-nourished, resilient, and ready to make a positive impact on the world.

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