Providing hungry children with nutritious meals outside of school.
Harrisburg – State Sen. Kim Ward (R-39) and Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-4) were joined today on the Capitol steps by food bank advocates to promote the Weekend Backpack Program for hungry children.
Senator Ward and Senator Washington are the Republican and Democratic chairs, respectively, of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee. The Weekend Backpack Program provides hungry students with backpacks filled with nutritious and easy to prepare food to take home on weekends and school vacations.
“As a member of the Pennsylvania Hunger Caucus, I am all too aware that in 2010 hunger remains a fundamental obstacle to healthy development and well-being for too many children,” said Ward. “Studies show that hungry and food-insecure students are 1.4 times more likely to repeat a grade and nearly twice as likely to be suspended from school. One way to combat such hunger is the Weekend Backpack Program, which provides children with nutritious food when other resources are not available to them.”
According to a 2007 national study, hungry and food-insecure children are twice as likely to require special education and 1.6 times more likely to miss days of school, Ward said.
“Last year, 120,084 children in Philadelphia received food from pantries, a 41 percent increase from 2008,” said Senator Washington. “Programs such as the Weekend Backpack Program for hungry children are instrumental in helping parents provide adequate nutrition which is essential for the healthy physical and mental development of children.”
The Westmoreland County Food Bank in Senator Ward’s district is one of four in Pennsylvania to run a Weekend Backpack Program, along with the Central Pennsylvania, York County Lehigh Valley food banks. The senators are seeking to spread the model to more locations in the commonwealth.
“The Mission of the Backpack Program is to meet the needs of hungry children by providing them with backpacks filled with nutritious and easy to prepare food to take home on weekends and school vacations,” said Westmoreland County Food Bank CEO Marlene Kozak. “The program objectives are to provide nutritious, healthy food to children at risk of hunger for preparation and consumption in their homes, and to distribute food discreetly in an easily accessible and safe environment.”
Kozak thanked Senator Ward for help in securing a $24,000 DCED grant for the program.
For more information on the Westmoreland County Food Bank’s Weekend Backpack Program, visit www.westmorelandfoodbank.org.