We noticed that many of our children were going hungry when their school's free or reduced-cost lunch programs were unavailable to them on week-ends and during school vacations. We began the Backpack Program in November 2006 and now serve more than 900 children every month during the school year.
As the largest food distribution center in New Hampshire, always looking for ways to be pro-active and improve the lives of New Hampshire's hungry, we saw this as an opportunity, an invitation to increase the level of services to our 400+ registered agencies. By compiling the many facets of this program we are teaching families how to prepare meals for themselves and their children. It provides them with the curiosity to explore other meals and encourage them to want to get the most out of their groceries as well as making meal time an activity to be closer with their families.
In each backpack, we include all the ingredients needed to prepare meals, as a family, along with simple step-by-step recipes. Once a month, the Backpack Program is presented in a way that the items we include not only help the family through the one or two meals over the week-end but provides them with staple items for their shelves and gives them the hope in creating a second meal with the remaining ingredients.
Each backpack is given a different theme based on age and on a curriculum designed by our staff and our registered and licensed dietitian. The packs contain the food needed for the recipe, nutritional information, activities for the entire family, a survey on how they did as a family preparing the recipe and the activity, and most importantly, how we did putting the backpack together.
"I like the backpack program because it is a fun way to spend time with my kids. We enjoy the activities and making the meals together, and the extra food is always helpful."
"The Backpack Program is the best program ever to come to the Head Start. It helps many families in need, and helps me out a lot."
"These backpacks mean a lot to us. For my son, it's like a gift. Being a single mom on an extremely tight budget the food really helps."
Backpacks are funded in part by United Natural Foods, Inc., Citizens Bank, Wal-Mart, Speedway Children's Charities, People's United Charitable Foundation, individual donors, and by the NH Food Bank.