The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank feeds more than 350,000 people every month in communities throughout San Diego County. While many associate the Food Bank with the homeless, the majority of the people the Food Bank serves serve are working-poor families, low-income seniors, and chronically hungry school children living in poverty.
The Food Bank helps feed children living in poverty through several programs, but one program that is critically important to the Food Bank’s mission is the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program.
Our community has a hidden problem – that is, tens of thousands of children in San Diego County live in poverty and face the threat of hunger every day. During the week, these children get school free breakfast and lunch through school feeding programs, but on the weekend they often receive little or no food at home.
In 2006, the Food Bank started the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program to provide weekend backpacks full of nutritious, child-friendly food to children in elementary schools throughout San Diego County. These weekend backpacks ensure that they have breakfast and meals they need see them through the weekend until they return to school on Monday morning.
Every Friday afternoon, students on the program are called out of class and are discretely given a bag of food which is tucked into their backpacks.
Thanks to grant funding from Hunger Is, children on the program receive nutritious and healthy breakfast foods including milk, cereal, oatmeal, and pancake mix along with other healthy foods including peanut butter and jelly packets, ravioli, stew, soup, tuna fish, vegetable and fruit cups, and granola bars that see them through the weekend until they can arrive to school on Monday where they are fed through the federal free and reduced school meals program.
Children who join the program are identified by school staff because they display signs of “chronic hunger” such as frequent stomach aches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty interacting with classmates, hoarding food from the cafeteria, and absenteeism. Once a child has been identified as “chronically hungry,” a permission request form is sent to the student’s parents to enroll the student on the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program.
More than 2,000 children participate on the program at 43 elementary schools in 11 school districts throughout San Diego County. Children on the program have shown significant improvement in their grades, reduced absenteeism, improved interaction with other students, and are sick less often.
Thanks to support from Hunger Is and our program partners we are ensuring that our community’s youth have the nourishment they need to grow and thrive.