That's why the Kansas Food Bank started a program called Food 4 Kids back in September of 2004. Food 4 Kids was established for students who are "food insecure" and who are not getting sufficient food outside of school on a regular basis.
When Food 4 Kids first began the program in the fall of 2004 it was helping 632 kids in 10 districts, but by the spring of 2007 the program has grown to help over 5,698 kids in 336 schools in 91 different school districts. Food 4 Kids is a statewide partnership with the Kansas Food Bank, Dillons, Fugate Enterprises, Taco Bell & Pizza Hut and KWCH 12.
What The Food 4 Kids Backpacks Contain
- Different foods designed to provide nutrition and calories for chronically hungry school children on weekends.
- Kid friendly foods that require no preparation. Kids can just "open and eat".
- Peanut Butter (12-oz jar) and a sleeve of crackers
- Beans and Franks (pop-top can)
- Beef Jerky (1 oz)
- Cereal (1 oz bowl or box)
- Fruit Cups (peaches, applesauce, etc)
- Raisins (snack-size boxes)
- Pudding Cups
- Juice Boxes (apple, orange or other juice)
- Milk (aseptic pack boxes that do not require refrigeration)
- Cereal Bars or granola bars
If a child does not get enough food outside of school he/she is considered "food insecure." The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as households that are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet basic needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources. When the guardian of a child has to choose between food and other necessities, e.g., having electricity shut off because they don't have enough money, it is an indicator of food insecurity.
A child will not necessarily tell you that he doesn't have enough food at home, but observation of patterns and/or behavior will set them apart. For example: A chronically hungry child will be anxious for a meal to be served; they may rush the cafeteria line or show up early for breakfast; they'll eat any food place before them; they linger around for seconds or even ask for more.
Food insecurity is the main reason for the Food 4 Kids program. Any child who exhibits these behaviors is considered a candidate for receiving a backpack.
School Performance & Behavior
The school performance of a child can indicate there are problems at home with food insufficiency. Examples are: excessive absences both unexcused or due to sickness; hyperactivity, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, withdrawn, distressed, passive/aggressiveness; repetition of a grade; difficulty in forming friendships, Sicknesses such as sore throat, common cold, stomach ache, ear infection, or fatigue; short attention span, and an inability to concentrate.
Difficulty with several of these symptoms can seriously impact a child's ability to learn and master education material...handicapping them down the road.
The idea is to send these children home with a backpack full of nutritious pre-assembled bags of food each Friday every week.
Making A Difference
Here's what the school coordinators are saying about the impact the backpacks are having in children's lives:
- We had spring break this last month. With spring break comes extra food for the break. We had a student who was taking his food and his brother's food home for the weekend. He met up with mom and was glowing as he told her his backpack was so heavy because he had his brother's food, also. Just the excitement from the younger children makes this a worth while cause each and every week. Thank you!
- Two new students transferred to Harry Street. I asked the mom if her children received the Friday food packs. Mom said she was unaware of the program. As I explained it to her, tears came down her cheeks. I asked her if she was ok and her reply was, this program will help my kids have snacks over the weekends. I usually work and feel bad I can't get them as much as I would like to be able to. Thank you so much.
- I stand in the school foyer every morning to greet each child as they come in for the day, last Friday a child that is in the backpack program looked at me, smiled, clapped her hands, and said, "Yea......it's Friday.....food day!" It was precious!
- The parent of four of the children stopped by to tell me how much she appreciated the support. The children are definitely SO much happier and now have smiles on their faces when I see them. It has made a huge difference in their life. Thank you so much for this opportunity for them.
- On Friday mornings, one of the families served is always excited each time they see me. Throughout the day they come up to me give me a hug and say, "I get to come see you today, right?"
- One child said he will never miss another Friday of school and that he and his siblings aren't hungry anymore over the weekends and that they enjoy the weekends now.
- There is a little boy who receives the backpack each week. He faithfully returns the backpack every Monday and eagerly receives it every Friday. He recently came up and shared with me that his family really appreciates the food for him that the Food Bank provides as they are going through some hard times right now with the father not working as much. The smile on his face says it all.
- One little girl who receives food for herself and 2 siblings would not leave school to go home because she was sick until she got her food for the weekend. When we assured her that someone would deliver it to her home, she was then willing to go home. She is also a child that asks frequently throughout the week about when it will be "food day" and also comments on Mondays about how good the food was that she got on the previous Friday.
- We started the Food 4 Kids Back Pack Program at Freeman this month. We started with one family and already are going to expand the program next month. The family we started with has three boys at Freeman. When I explained to each child that they were going to get to take snacks home for the weekend each became very excited. Their faces lit up. The oldest student said he would never miss a Friday, so that he could get snacks for the weekend. His teacher said he often would complain of stomach aches when he came to school. But the Monday after getting his first back pack he was ready to start his day and was not complaining of a stomach ache.
- The students love this program. One of my first graders asks me everyday, "Mr. Springer is it Friday yet? I can't wait to get my backpack." This student always brings his backpack back on Mondays. He is faithful about this. Now if we could get him to be as committed to getting his homework back as he is returning the backpack we would be doing great.
- We had three siblings who each got a packet on Thursday. They were so excited to have food for the weekend that they were almost in tears.
- One child was eating paper on a Monday morning. When asked why he replied "We don't have food at home to eat on the weekend." After having a backpack of food there has been no more problems.
- One small girl told me of how sometimes her family runs out of food. She told me that she is "always" hungry. The look of joy on her face when she received a bag of food "just for her" was both priceless and heartbreaking.
- One teacher noted that after receiving this bag of food for the past three months, one of her students still acts like he has won the lottery when he opens his bag at the end of the day on Friday and sees his food has been put in there during the day.
- A student who does not get a backpack food packet spent the night with a student that is in the program. The student that spent the night told me that she understands why her friend receives the food on Friday. All they had to eat in the house was potato chips..