This morning I packed my 11-year-old daughter’s lunch: a turkey sandwich, an apple, veggie chips, and carrots. She has a good lunch program at her school, but she prefers to bring her lunch, partly for variety, partly because she gets to choose her favorite foods, and partly, I suspect, because she likes me preparing the food for her. I love food and share that love with her. It’s an important part of our family life and we take great pleasure in preparing and sharing food together.
By the time she gets home in the afternoon, it’s been three hours since lunch and she is hungry again. So hungry that she is cranky and can barely talk to me until I have gotten some food into her. It’s astounding how much she eats in the afternoon--she has another full meal between lunch and dinner--but not surprising considering she has grown 3 inches this past year. Her body needs the fuel. To grow, to do her homework, to even carry on a conversation.
So I can’t imagine what it must be like for kids that have no food at home. Literally. Without the school lunch program they would not have any food that day. And what about weekends when there is no school lunch program to feed them?
San Diego Food Bank's Food 4 Kids Backpack Program was launched in 2007 to provide food to get chronically hungry elementary school students through the weekend. Every Friday, participating children receive a backpack filled with child-friendly items such as peanut butter, pop-top canned goods, cereal, juice boxes, fruit cups, raisins, pudding cups, granola bars, shelf-stable milk and macaroni and cheese. Each bag contains a minimum of 10 items.
The children receive free or reduced-cost meals while school is in session, but do not have food available on the weekends or school holidays for themselves and their siblings. Food 4 Kids provides food directly to the children, without requiring their parents to receive a referral to a local food pantry, pick up food at the pantry or prepare it at home. In order to qualify for the program, students must attend a school where at least 80% of the population receives free or reduced-cost lunch, and receive a referral from their teachers. Each child must also return a signed permission slip from their parent/guardian.
During the 2008-2009 school year, the program served just 200 chronically hungry elementary school children in eight schools located throughout San Diego County. The need is much greater. As an example, the pilot program at one school in 2006 served 250 children alone.
The economy has been hard on all of us this year, but it has been hardest on those who were already struggling. Charitable donations are down, and hunger in San Diego County is up. Those of us who love food and view it as a pleasure are so fortunate to be in that position. The least we can do is try to ensure the children of our community don’t – quite literally - go hungry.
With this goal in mind, San Diego’s food bloggers and other members of the local community are coming together to raise funds for the San Diego Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids Backpack Program.
A little goes a long way: the program costs approximately $7 per week per child to fund, and a donation of $250 will fund a backpack for a child for the entire 36-week school year.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Donate online at our First Giving website.
2. Spread the word at your Thanksgiving gathering, your place of business, on your blog, via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
3. Get together with your friends, family or business and sponsor an entire school! To find out how, call the San Diego Food Bank at 866-350-FOOD (3663)
4. Donate a prize for the raffle. A full list of prizes can be found on Alice Q. Foodie's site.
5. Come to the Food and Backpack Drive at the Little Italy Mercato on December 12, 2009 from 9 am-12 noon. Alice Q. Foodie and Caron Golden, who are spearheading this event, will be giving away prizes in a drawing at our booth at the Little Italy Mercato that morning.
We will also be collecting non-perishable, child-friendly food items and backpacks. Come and meet your favorite food bloggers, drop off your donations and celebrate the Holidays at the Mercato!
Suggested donation items:
- A medium-sized neutral design backpack, preferably red in color.
- Toothbrush and kids' toothpaste
- Coloring books
- School supplies (pencils, paper, sharpeners, markers, crayons)
- Nutritious kid-friendly
foods, such as fruit roll ups; granola bars; boxed, packaged food items like
cereal, crackers, or nutrition bars; pop-top canned goods such as applesauce or other fruit; ready-made macaroni and cheese; and other easy, convenient
Thank you so much for your contribution. Happy Holidays!
“I like backpack because I can have food on Saturday and Sunday.”
– 3rd Grader, Bobier Elementary