The Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central School District recently started a program designed to help meet the needs of hungry children who are enrolled in the district.
APW has created a BackPack Program, which has the goal of providing students who have been identified by the district to be at risk of hunger on weekends with a bag of nutritious food each Friday throughout the school year.
“We’re basically looking to keep student’s bellies full on weekends and holidays,” said school lunch manager Bonnie Horning, a key contributor to the creation of the program. “We realized that some of our kids needed this, so here we are.”
The initial pilot program – January to June 2015 — will send participating students home with at least eight items each week in each backpack, and even more on extended breaks.
Foods sent home in the backpacks will be child-friendly, nutritious, individually packaged, small and light enough to carry, shelf stable and easy to prepare.
Participating families will be referred to existing programs and services for which they may be eligible, in an attempt to transition the student from the BackPack Program to other resources, such as reduced or free lunch, food stamps and food pantries.
Though the program is only weeks old, Horning said they have received overwhelming support to the cause, including from several organizations and groups within the community.
The program welcomes and relies on donations to help feed students in need.
Food donations may be left at the main office of both of the district’s schools.
Examples of food to donate to the BackPack Program include: peanut butter, pasta, canned tuna, soups, macaroni and cheese, cereal, oatmeal, granola bars, crackers, shelf-stable milk, pudding cups, 100 percent juice boxes, applesauce, fruit cups, raisins and all small canned vegetables.
“Even if you can add on one item to your grocery list, that would be so helpful,” Horning said.
To help raise awareness for the program and promote a strong sense of community, the BackPack Program will host a broomball tournament at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Junior/Senior High School on March 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Admission will be $1 and anyone is invited to participate.
A 50/50 raffle will also be held during the tournament.
For more information on the BackPack Program, contact Horning or Superintendent Anita Murphy at (315) 625-5251.