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Kids Backpacks: Promoting Child Nutrition

The Food Bank works with school principals, administrators, staff and parent liaisons to identify children at risk of hunger or food insecurity.

Feeding America reports that “more than 16 million children in America live in households struggling with hunger. This means that more than 1 in 5 children may not always have enough to eat.”

This program is designed to provide food for children living in food insecurity. Many of the children we serve are homeless; all are considered ‘food insecure’ or unable to tell where their next meal will come from. The program helps provide backpacks filled with food that children take home on weekends and holidays when the school is closed and access to meals provided by the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch program is cut off. The food is kid-friendly, nonperishable, and easy to eat. Each school designs their own site distribution plan so that kids are not embarrassed by their participation in the program.

We have had incidents where the need was to provide a “family rescue box” that will feed a family of 4 for up to 4 days either in addition to or instead of the backpack. This item is not used weekly but rather as an as needed resource that the school will preorder and have on hand.

As reported by Feeding America, the BackPack Program has been helping children get nutritious and easy-to-prepare food they need over the course of the weekend. Today, at more than 150 national wide food banks, nearly 230,000 children benefit from this program.


What is the Need?
The Food Bank relies on data from the U.S. Census as well as studies conducted by research institutes and non-governmental agencies such as its national partner, Feeding America. According to Hunger in America: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States in 2014, more than 46.5 million Americans – including nearly 12 million children and 7 million seniors – receive emergency food assistance each year from the Feeding America Network. (Source: Hunger in America) Another hunger study conducted in 2014 lists the following Texas State highlights:

  • The reported 2013 population in Texas is 26,448,193 of which 19% are food insecure.

  • Texas reports that we have 4,773,850 food insecure residents of which 1,909,470 are children.

  • Texas has 9,555,700 low-income residents with 22% having unmet food needs. “Low-income Texans live in households with a total annual income below 185% of the federal poverty line.”

  • Texas had 70% of all students participating in the School Breakfast and Lunch program at the end of the 2012 – 2013 school year.

  • Children make up 33% of the clients served reports Feeding Texas (previously Texas Food Bank Network).


The USDA defines food insecurity as meaning “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Acceptable shorthand terms for food insecurity are “hungry, or at risk of hunger,” and “hungry, or faced the threat of hunger.” Food insecurity can also accurately be described as “a financial juggling act, where sometimes the food ball gets dropped.” (Sources ~; and

We recently participated in a study in our area that we believe will help us continue to identify those in need so that we can better serve them. Our most recent reports indicate that in our service area, the child food insecurity rate is 27.4%, numbering about 20,000 children. (Source: Feeding America: Map The Gap) 

We know that hunger has a lasting effect on the development of children living in poverty. Many years of research point to issues like:

  • Permanently damaged physical growth, brain development, and cognitive functioning due to undernutrition.

  • Greater likelihood of cognitive impairments due to undernutrition.

  • Behavioral issues directly linked to hunger.


How Does It Work?
The process involves collaboration between the Food Bank, school districts and sites, grantors, and community volunteers.

  • The Food Bank works with school principals, administrators, staff and parent liaisons to identify children at risk of hunger or food insecurity.

  • A Food Bank driver delivers food to participating schools or schools pick up food. 

  • The school staff and/or volunteers/parent liaisons distribute backpacks or rescue box to the qualified students on Fridays.


What Are The Benefits?
The supplemental food that these children receive each week may help offset or reverse some of the developmental delays caused by even mild malnutrition that is associated with poverty.

Once undernutrition occurs, its long-term effects may be reduced or eliminated by a combination of adequate food intake and environmental (home & school) support.


What Are The Results?
The goal of this program is to serve children directly. With this unique program, schools will provide the service directly to the children who need it either with individual weekend backpacks or family rescue boxes.

Liaisons report many interesting outcomes resulting from this program, such as: 

  • Reduced health problems in children served by mitigating negative consequences of under nutrition.

  • Remove the barrier of hunger that contributes to poor school performance.

  • Better attendance; attention spans are enhanced behavioral problems are reduced.

"It costs $200 to provide one child with weekend food for a whole school year." 

It costs $15.00 to provide a “family rescue box” which will serve a family of four for up to 4 days. This option will be used when circumstances involves more than one child and/or older children in the school system. These are not used every week as the backpacks are but more on an as needed basis as determined by the school. The school will request them as the need arises.

If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities or need additional information, contact the Backpack Coordinator Anna Celum

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