When school dismisses on Friday, 11,000 children in Fort Wayne will leave their classroom, uncertain whether they will have enough food to eat that weekend.
Approximately 70 percent of elementary children in Fort Wayne face food insecurity.
During the school week, most of these children depend on their school's meal program, and that food is sometimes all they have for the day. When the school closes its doors on Friday afternoon, many of these children go home to empty cupboards and hunger for 65 hours, until they return to school on Monday.
Blessings in a Backpack mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry. The program feeds 93,000 children (1,700 in Fort Wayne) across 45 states in 1,100 schools.
“Blessings is a Backpack is a national organization feeding children across the country, with the mission to end childhood hunger,” Dena Jacquay, Chief Human Resources Officer, Parkview Health, who volunteers for the program, said. “Parkview orders the food and helps to ensure the selections meet the dietary and nutritional guidelines.” For a developing child, consistent nutrition is critical to leading a full, healthy life and succeeding at school. Food insecurity impacts children’s health, social development, cognitive growth and general well-being.
“We store the pallets of food in our Distribution Center before they are taken to the schools where volunteers and other school team members pack the backpacks and distribute them,” Dena added.
There is an application process for children who wish to apply, and the hope is the program can grow to feed more in need. “Our goal in fundraising for Blessings in a Backpack is to expand the number of schools we are currently serving, since the needs across Fort Wayne are high. There are so many children who leave schools in our area each Friday and are not sure if they will have food to eat over the weekend. As a mom, that is heartbreaking. The backpacks contain food that requires little to no preparation, being sensitive to the variety of home environments that may exist.”
Thursday, in honor of National Blessings Day, hundreds of volunteers gathered at South Wayne Elementary School to bring more awareness to the growing need within our community. Their tireless efforts and dedication to the cause were evident in their efforts. So many, just like Dena, are moved by a personal calling to help. “I am honored to have been on the Board of Directors for the last two years. Like education, food is a building block for success. And removing the barrier of food for these young students over the weekend can directly correlate to their academic success.”
To learn more about how you can get involved or to make a donation, visit blessingsinabackpack.org.