An Abbotsford program that helps feed kids who otherwise might go hungry on the weekends is now serving nine schools and 140 children.
Plans are in place to expand the Blessings in a Backpack program even further.
The update was announced Tuesday during a weekly luncheon meeting for the Rotary Club of Abbotsford, which supports and helps co-ordinate the program.
Bruce Beck, the club’s director of community services, said $80,000 has so far been raised in the community, enabling Blessings in a Backpack to grow from the two schools that were involved at the beginning of the school year.
Beck said there are still more kids in need, and the fundraising efforts will continue. The program began through the Abbotsford Food Bank with funding from the Rotary Club of Abbotsford.
It was recognized that although many kids are supported through school breakfast and lunch programs during the week, their families struggle to feed them on the weekends.
One elementary school and 10 kids were involved in the pilot program for the 2012/13 school year. Each backpack is filled with two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, and dropped off at school for the kids to take home each Friday. The empty packs are then returned and refilled.
The program was expanded at the beginning of the 2013/14 school year to include two schools and 60 children.
The Rotary Club donated $22,000 towards the food and the purchase of the backpacks, and the rest of the community was approached for support.
The cost of providing the backpacks for one child for the entire school year is $525, and businesses and other agencies have been urged to sponsor as many children as they can.
Community support has enabled Blessings in a Backpack to grow at an astonishing rate.
Last week, for example, the Abbotsford Community Foundation announced it will provide a $10,500 grant to fund 20 children for the year.
Support for the program has also come through local churches, which have provided volunteers who shop for the food each week, fill the backpacks, drop them off at the schools, and pick them up.
Northview Community Church, Ross Road Church and Hill City Church were acknowledged with certificates of appreciation at the Rotary luncheon, as were 23 businesses, individuals and organizations that have made donations.
To donate to the program, call the Abbotsford Food Bank at 604-859-5749 or contact Bruce Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Program
Early in 2013, the Abbotsford Food Bank requested that the Abbotsford Rotary Club fund a pilot project designed to bridge existing in-school breakfast and lunch programs with the absence of any food over weekends for elementary students at risk. Our club funded the purchase of ten backpacks. Each week volunteers packed two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and healthy snacks into each backpack with food for the weekend and delivered the backpacks to an elementary school for the remainder of the school year. The pilot project resulted in a number of other schools urgently requesting to be included in the program.
At the outset of the 2013-2014 school year, the Abbotsford Rotary club met with the Abbotsford School District to determine the scope of need and the priority order of schools. It was determined that nearly 400 elementary school children throughout Abbotsford’s public schools depend on either an in-school breakfast and/or lunch program as their sole source of nutrition during a normal school day. A conservative estimate indicated that over 300 of those students were also going completely without nutritional meals of any kind over a normal two day weekend.
Working with the Abbotsford Food Bank, corporate partners, non-profit groups, faith groups and individuals, Blessings in Backpack has expanded from the original single school pilot project of ten backpacks to the current level of 9 schools serving 140 students and their families.
In addition to the important funding received through community donations, the program would not be possible without the dedicated teams of community volunteers who every week shop, pack, deliver and recover the individual backpacks. Volunteers meet weekly in local churches and other locations so that 100% of funds raised from the community are spent on providing well balanced meals for children in need. Several local grocery stores are providing the weekly backpack contents at discounted prices. One store, Thrifty Foods, is providing the weekly contents at cost to the program, to further maximize the number of families the program can serve.