At the end of this school year: The Food-4-Kids Backpack Program is currently serving 6,685 kids in 388 schools, in 64 counties.

Over 220,000 food packets were distributed to weekend chronically hungry students/siblings through our “Backpack Program” this school session and thousands of volunteer hours were utilized to assemble the food packets!

What is Food 4 Kids?

Some kids look forward to the weekend. For others, the weekends are a time when they go hungry. The hot meals at school can be the only filling meals that some children get.

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 weekend “food insecure” and who are not getting sufficient food outside of school on a regular basis.

The idea is to send these children home with a backpack full of nutritious pre-assembled bags of food on Friday each week.

When Food 4 Kids first began the program in the fall of 2004 it was helping 632 kids in 10 districts, but by the end of school of the 2012-13 school year, the program has grown to help over 7,158 kids in 400 schools in 58 Kansas Counties. Food 4 Kids is a statewide partnership with the Kansas Food Bank, Dillons, 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”.

List Of Food

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

What Is Food Insecurity?

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 As of December, 2015 there are 6,296 kids in 384 schools in an 85-county service area who receive food through this program. Here’s what the school coordinators are saying about the impact the backpacks are having in children’s lives:

Wellington – Washington Elementary: The students are so thankful each week we give them their food packs.

Garnett – Elementary School: I have a student who hugs me each day that I see him and tells me thanks for his food pack!

Udall – Elementary: We have one first grade boy who reminds me every week to not forget his food bag. He and his brothers (there are 5 boys in the family) are very thankful to have this food available to them on the weekends. The father works long hours at a low-paying job and the mother stays at home. Thank you for allowing us to help meet their basic needs.

Wichita – Hyde: I had a mother, who is a para in our school, catch me distributing the backpack food to our students that are embarrassed to come pick up the backpacks in our distribution room. I learned a few years ago that the older kids stop taking the backpack food, even though they need it, because they don’t want their friends to see them taking it home. I started slipping it into their backpacks in their lockers so no one knows they get the support. Well anyway, she began to cry and thank me for getting the food for her children.

Maize – Transnet School: Your food packets are currently helping a student who’s father has terminal cancer and the mother must miss work on a regular basis due to the father’s illness. The family is overwhelmed with cancer treatments and medical bills. Thank you for helping them.

Leroy – Gridley School: I have a few staff members jumping at the chance to hand these out because they know how much the kids need them. One choked up a bit when the Kindergartners did their “happy dance” after they were told they each got the whole pack for themselves.

Lakin – Elementary: We had some children return to our school this last week. When they had been enrolled with us before, they had been on our F4K list. One of the first things they asked when they returned this last week was if they could still be on the list. Knowing a bit about this family, it is comforting to know that this is a service we can provide for them as they are desperately in need. Thank you.

Wichita – WA White Elementary: One of the new kids looked so excited when he found out that we were providing him food for the weekend. This helps make a difference for our children. Thank you.

Wichita – Buckner Elementary: I am helping a family who has 6 children. Mom is single and makes enough to not qualify for food stamps but she cannot make the money stretch every month. She really appreciates the food bags so her kids can have enough food over the weekends!

Wichita – Wilbur Middle School: One student who was struggling with some personal issues, shared with the counselor in confidence that she didn’t have a lot of food at home. We were able to get her added to the food 4 kids list and started right away.

Wichita – Anderson Elementary: We have a sibling group whose mother has always been guarded about what type of information she shares with the school. After receiving a heads up that her children may be hungry on the weekends I assessed the children for food for kids. After learning the need was there, I spoke with the mother and added the children to the program. Since that time the mom has been more open in communication with the school; which has allowed the students to be more successful within their school day.

El Dorado – Grandview Elementary: One of the younger students usually is pretty grumpy and appears sad in the afternoons. Since I’ve started the food back pack to him, he seems happier and ‘taken care of’. It definitely has improved his disposition.

Wichita – Park Elementary: We have one little guy who is so thankful to get his food pack each week. He says without it he wouldn’t have much to eat over the weekend. Thank you so much for helping families like his.

Wichita – Cloud Elementary: Parents have come up to me and thanked me for the food. “It has really helped us out” and “This program is a life saver” are among the things that I have heard from participating families.

Smith Center – Elementary: Thank you for the Backpack Program. We have kids that are very appreciative. Thanks to the volunteers that make this happen every week.

Wichita – Jardine Middle: In Plainview, there are many needy children. The students here at Jardine who receive the food packets are always very grateful and appreciative of them.

Wichita – Cessna Elementary: I have had two children advocate for themselves and ask if they could be added to the program or be on the program again this year. One child said it would be helpful for him and his brothers (he is the oldest of three boys at Cessna) and that maybe they wouldn’t have to go to the Lord’s Diner as much.

Derby – Pleasantview Elementary: Some of my students ask me every week if they are getting a bag that week. I’ve never forgotten to give them a bag, but it made me realize just how vital your program is that they have anxiety about not getting one. Thank you for being one of the few things in their lives that they can count on!

Wichita - Payne Elementary: For two weeks after the first delivery, a 2nd grade boy came to my office EVERY morning to ask, “You got my food for this Friday?” He no longer asks this of me ‘every day’ but needs reassured that he will have food for the weekend. THANK YOU for proving reliable food for him!

Altoona – Midway School: I was told a first grade boy in the program has become less aggressive before meals on Mondays since we’ve distributed packets.

Wichita – Seltzer Elementary: chronically hungry on the weekends. Many people see the food in these packs and may not find it appetizing. So when you see the joy and excitement that comes when our kids receive their packs on Friday it really speaks to how hungry they are. One Friday morning we had to send one of our students home early. He receives weekend food packs from the Food Bank. He is in first grade, and he made it clear to the principal that he needed to stay at school until after lunch. This was the first week of food pack deliveries for the school year as well so I made sure the principal brought the student to my office before he left for the day. The student looked at me and said he needed a bag every day, not just Friday. This student depends on these food packs, and I am so grateful that the Food Bank has donors to help provide for these students who are so desperately in need of it.

Wichita – Woodman Elementary: One of our families has 6 kids at our school. I’ve been to the house; it is very clean, but definitely the family is living without many basic necessities. There isn’t enough furniture for everyone to sit on in the dining room or front room. This Mom faithfully comes to the school on Friday to pick up the food packets. She is very appreciative as the kids have something to eat over the weekend.

Lyons – Central Elementary: When students are tardy and miss our breakfast program they can come in the office and get a granola bar with their tardy slip. One student shared with me he couldn’t eat breakfast at home before coming to school because he had ‘no food in his house’. We have many kids this year living at poverty level...this program really helps. A few kids catch me early in the week and ask me when they are getting more food...they look forward to it!

Ark City – Willard Elementary: Your food packets have helped a child and her younger sibling, who were homeless with their mother and frequently did not have enough to eat. This student was so happy to get the backpack food that she hugged me and thanked me every day!

Natoma – Elementary: Many of our children are so grateful to have the opportunity to have this food over the weekend. It gives them one less thing to worry about.

Garden City – Wilson Elementary: The second week, the kids came bouncing up to the office, they were so excited that they were getting food again!! They were telling me their favorite things to eat and many said they liked it all.

Who does this program benefit?

CLICK HERE to read Food 4 Kids Stories of Hope to learn more about who this program is benefiting!