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IDAHO FOOD BANK Backpack & School Pantry Programs

Offers Answers for Hungry Kids and Parents

The Idaho Foodbank and the families that received backpacks throughout the school year are extremely grateful to the Morrison Knudsen Foundation for providing 20 children with weekend food for an entire school year. The Foundation also sponsored the School Pantry Program which is a natural extension of the Backpack program.

A working single mother says:

“I don’t know what I’d do without this program. I work weekends, and I just can’t be there to prepare meals for my children.”

Children say:

“All this food for me? Can I share it with my little sister?”

“Now my mom doesn’t have to worry about us not having enough food.”

“I get to eat every weekend?”

The stories about the need for the Backpack Program go on and on. There are the children who stuff themselves Monday mornings on school breakfasts because they haven’t eaten over the weekend. Children whose mothers cry because they don’t have food for their families on Saturdays and Sundays. The child who didn’t want to go on a Friday fieldtrip because he was afraid he would miss his weekend backpack full of food.

57a55803fe4270f1ffff8834ffffe904The sad fact is, almost one of every five Idaho children is food-insecure, meaning that child is not sure where his or her next meal is coming from. That is 66,600 children.

When the upcoming school year starts, the Backpack Program will only feed 2,000 of those children across the state and 200 in the Boise School District. It will take more funding to reach more children.

The Backpack Program was created to make sure at-risk children were fed over weekends. With a carefully selected backpack filled with six meals and two snacks, children have the food they need when school breakfasts and lunches aren’t available.

Not only does the backpack offer nutrition, it helps the children feel that they are contributing to the family by bringing home weekend food, and the quality of the food teaches them about the importance of healthy choices.

This is how the program works: The Foodbank provides backpacks to children identified by their school counselors, teachers or school nurses at the beginning of the school year. The backpacks are filled with more than five pounds of nutritious food reviewed by a nutritionist. The menu includes such foods as beef stew, shelf-stable milk, juice, peanut butter, crackers and canned fruit – all of which can be eaten with or without heating and all packed in easy-open containers. The kids pick up the loaded backpacks from their counselors on Friday and return them empty on Monday. The program runs the length of the school year, which amounts to 39 weeks.

57a55803fe4270f1ffff8832ffffe904The program’s cost is primarily for food. To maintain nutritional consistency and quality it must be purchased, and the average cost is about $6.20 a week.  The backpacks  go to  children who need the nourishment and will be more prepared to learn when they get to school Monday morning.  When the Idaho Foodbank surveyed Backpack program participants, they discovered that 80% of the children were sharing their Backpack food with siblings and family members.  This led to the need to address family-wide hunger with the Food Pantry Program.  School pantries stocked with healthy food are available to families at 20 schools located throughout SW, S. Central and Eastern Idaho. Because schools provide a safe, trusted and discreet environment, they are a great place for families to pick up emergency and supplemental food when they need it.

The generosity of the Morrison Knudsen Foundation is more than appreciated.


True Story from the BackPack Program

Too often low-income children depend on school breakfast and lunch programs to eat during the week and then must fend for themselves during the lean weekends. The Idaho Foodbank’s BackPack Program distributes backpacks filled with food to children in need every Friday so they will have some nourishment on Saturdays and Sundays. 

 Names have been withheld to protect the child’s privacy.

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He was a little guy, the number-one child on the teacher’s priority list of kids she knew needed food assistance. The teacher took him aside and explained that she had something for him, and then showed him the backpack full of food.

He looked as if he had won the lottery. “I get to have all this food? It’s for me? I get to eat this weekend?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but remember to bring the backpack back on Monday.”

He was crestfallen and confused. “I have to bring it all back on Monday?”

“No,” she explained. “We’re going to fill it up again and you can take it home again next Friday.”

“I get to eat every weekend?” he asked, his eyes as big as plates.

“Yes,” she told him. “Every weekend.”

“My mom’s gonna cry,” he said.

The next Monday the boy was the first one back to school, backpack in hand, and asked how many days it would be until he could have more.

“It was incredible. I never felt more like a fairy godmother delivering gold to these kids,” the teacher told us. “I loved it.”

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Letter to the Foodbank

To the Idaho Foodbank and the Unitarian Church,

I am a 6th grade student at Whittier Elementary and have been in the food backpack program since it started here in the fall. I take home a bag of food every Thursday for the weekend at home. I wanted to let you know how this has helped me and my family out. The things that I like in the bag is the easy mac, the cartons of juice, the canned foods, and the milk. It makes me feel good inside. I have more food in the house and I don’t have to worry about how much I eat. So that my family has enough to eat. Thank you for the donations to our school and to my family for this program.

– Sincerely, Nicole Stewart


For More Information about The Idaho Foodbank and their programs, go to their website at:http://www.idahofoodbank.org/