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Filling backpacks to fill stomachs

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 13, 2016) -- Thanks to the generosity of the community, a program to provide hungry kids with food on weekends has expanded to all elementary and middle schools in the City School District of Albany.

 

“On behalf of our district, I simply say, ‘thank you,'” said Interim Superintendent Kimberly Wilkins, Ed.D. at the Thursday news conference announcing the expansion.

 

Hungry children get sick more often, leading them to miss class and fall behind in their learning, said Dr. Wilkins (pictured at right). School breakfast and lunch programs help, but that’s not an option on the weekend.

 

Enter the Weekend Backpack Food Program.

 

Each Friday during the school year, the program will send home a backpack stuffed with healthy food to 455 children who are “food insecure” – meaning they don’t have regular access to food.

 

“Research has shown that students that are able to get nutritious, healthy food through these programs have seen an increase in attendance, increased test scores, reduced behavior issues and a greater attention span. How can we not support this program that has the potential to have a direct, positive impact on so many students and their families?” Dr. Wilkins said.

      

After the news conference, Dr. Wilkins, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lori McKenna, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy and others joined community groups to stuff backpacks with nutritious food. (In the photo below, Fahy and Dr. Wilkins stock backpacks.)

 

The Weekend Backpack Food Program is a partnership between the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, the Albany Fund for Education, the Junior League of Albany and other community stakeholders.

 

Through their collective fundraising efforts, they intend to provide 455 Albany students across all 15 elementary and middle schools with backpacks full of food every Friday afternoon throughout the 2016-17 school year. The backpacks will include three entrees, one loaf of bread, two juice boxes, fresh fruits, and two snacks.

 

A voucher for a gallon of milk will be distributed on a biweekly basis, and canned vegetables will be sent home once every month, all of which can be provided for an annual cost of only $239 for each child. 

 

The Backpack Program has enjoyed success in Schenectady over the past few years, with the program being linked to an increase in attendance rates and a decrease in disciplinary issues.

 

Noticing the high percentage of district students receiving free and reduced lunch, community partners teamed up in 2013 to begin fundraising efforts to bring the Backpack Food Program to Albany. Since then, their coalition has raised nearly $50,000.

 

They plan to provide more students with backpacks each year, with the ultimate goal of servicing 1,025 students by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

 

For more information or to make a donation, contact amysavoie@ymail.com, cconnors@casdany.org or visit https://www.gofundme.com/2dcnubw.

  

The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves more than 9,600 students in 17 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

         
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