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BackPack Program Helps Hungry Northland Kids

Updated: 12/10/2013 11:09 PM
Created: 12/10/2013 2:23 PM WDIO.com

Hunger is something not often seen up front, in person. Especially somewhere as close as the classroom. A food program called the BackPack Program provides food for hungry Northland kids when they're away from school on the weekends. This is the first year Cloquet School District is involved.

"Lots of these kids get food at school during the week, hot lunch, they might get breakfast," explains Special Education teacher, Deb Roach. "But, what we found is there are kids who don't get that food on weekends. This gets them that food."

At the end of the school week, a child can go home with a bag filled with enough food to get them through the weekend. In order to find who may be in need, teachers look for signs a child isn't getting enough to eat.

"Sometimes it's very obvious," says Roach. "Kids who don't have snacks for food, or say they don't have food at home."

Kindergarten teacher, Mary Bakken, says she has witnessed hunger in the classroom firsthand, and shares a story.

"Everyday in kindergarten we pass out snack," says Bakken. "And I gave a little guy a scoop of cereal with his milk. He's playing with it on his napkin. And I said, 'don't you like the snack today?' He said, 'if I don't eat it, my brother and I can have supper tonight.' Here's a five year old worried about his little brother getting something to eat."

Once a child is found to be in need, a referral form is sent to that child's parents asking if they would like to be in the program.

"It's done in a very quiet way," explains Roach of the food. "It's delivered to teachers when kids are out of the classroom. It's put in backpacks without other kids seeing."

When the kids return from to the classroom from the weekend, they have shown a positive response.

"They get all giddy," Bakken says with a smile. "They say, 'we got to eat on the weekend'. And you just want to cry."

With help from the United Way, all the food comes directly from the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. A healthy selection of food, given directly to students. Bakken and Roach hope the BackPack Program expands to include more school districts in the future.

For more information regarding the BackPack Program, or to see if your school district is involved, contact the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank
4503 Airpark Boulevard
Duluth, MN 55811

Phone: (218) 727-5653

Fax: (218) 727-0105

Email: info@northernlakesfoodbank.org

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