8/29/2013 2:14:00 PM Weekend Back Packs for Kids program
kicks off Sept. 6
One out of three Verde Valley children are unsure of where their next meal will come from and an average of 61 percent are on free or reduced school meals across the county. Yavapai Food Council and community partners are working together to raise funds, collect backpacks and remind the community to donate healthy kid-friendly foods for the Weekend Backpacks for Hungry Kids delivery to hungry students in the Verde Valley.
The national weekend backpack program was started in 1995 in Little Rock, Ark., based on the concern of a school nurse who was seeing a large number of children in her clinic tired, sick and falling behind in class because of hunger and food scarcity in their homes. She approached the local food bank and a local business to help launch the Food for Kids program, which provided food for kids discretely in bags or backpacks to take home during the weekends when school meals were unavailable. Today, this national program serves thousands of hungry children.
Since the program's inception in 2009, over 4,000 backpacks filled with food for the weekend has gone home with children who otherwise may have started school on Monday morning hungry. Yavapai Food Council, in partnership with volunteers from Christ Lutheran Church of Sedona, Jewish Community of Sedona & Verde Valley, United Methodist Church of Sedona, and Unity Church of Sedona has provided backpacks for children at West Sedona School, Big Park School, Beaver Creek and Mingus Union High School during the 2012-13 school years. Each backpack provides a child with five healthy meals and three snacks for just under $6 per week.
The food for the backpacks is provided by Sedona Community Food Bank, Cornville Mission Food Bank, and Beaver Creek Food Bank. Volunteers gather each Thursday morning at the food banks to pack the food into the student's backpacks before delivering the food to the participating school for Friday distribution.
With over 4,300 students identified as hungry in the Verde Valley, last year the program reached an average of 110 students each week. Yavapai Food Council continues to seek out grants for this program, however community donations are need; email Amy@YavapaiFoodCouncil.org for additional information.