July 3, 2013

Community initiatives: Loading nutrition into a backpack

We work hard at the foundation to bring community initiatives across Saginaw County to life every day. Here is another great story:


BackPack Program

Since 2004, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan has helped children who are at-risk for hunger by packing a lot of nutrition into backpacks on Fridays.

Why Fridays? “These children typically receive free or reduced-price lunches at school during the week. We want to make sure there’s also a way for them to supplement their weekend meals at home. That’s why we developed our Backpack Program,” says Kathleen Payton, program coordinator at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

What started eight years ago with 50 backpacks and two elementary schools has now grown into a program that covers 4,300 children in 100 schools and 14 counties. This innovative program is currently helping families in Flint, Lapeer, Saginaw, Buena Vista, Sanilac and Midland every Friday during the school year.

“We are working to reduce child hunger, educate students on proper nutrition and promote healthy lifestyles,” says Payton. The Food Bank delivers the food to the schools, where volunteers and site personnel take over — filling the backpacks, distributing backpacks to the children and then collecting the backpacks the next week for refilling.

“This is not a government-supported program. That’s why the Saginaw Community Foundation’s support is so important to us. We depend entirely upon the Community Foundation’s administrative resources to manage the grant monies to run the programs,” says Payton.