Schenectady schools are handing out weekend backpacks full of food earlier than in previous years, an effort to get the foodstuffs to students as soon as possible.
The backpack program – a partnership with the Schenectady Foundation and City Mission launched in 2014 – had been delivering food to students on Friday beginning in October.
But with school staff clamoring to get the program off to an earlier start, the first batch of backpacks went home with students last Friday.
“With the summer meals program coming to an end, we wanted to limit the gap between access to a reliable food source,” Schenectady Foundation Executive Director Robert Carreau said in a press release.
The weekend backpacks are full of basic foodstuffs, including bread, rice, canned meats, fresh produce and a coupon for a gallon of milk from Stewart’s. The bags are stuffed with enough food for siblings too.
The program last year served 1,000 students and aims to increase that to 1,500 students this year. By the end of last year, the program had provided nearly 60,000 weekend backpacks of food – an effort that took 2,800 volunteer hours.
But even that isn’t enough to meet the need in Schenectady schools, where around 90 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches.
“We served over 1,000 kids a week last year, but we estimate we have 2,000 kids in elementary schools living with food insecurity,” Schenectady Superintendent Larry Spring said at last week’s school board meeting.
Initial studies by the district show that students participating in the backpack program have better attendance, behavior and English language arts proficiency scores than many of their peers.
The earlier start and expansion of Schenectady’s program comes as the program looks to expand to other districts in the county thanks to $50,000 in state funding.
Program organizers said a $6 donation is enough to provide a child food for a weekend, while $200 can fill the backpack for a student for the entire school year. To donate, visit the Schenectady Foundation website.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County