(08/27/13) - The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is ready to launch its ninth annual weekend backpack program, and the organization expects to serve more kids than ever before.
"We're starting the program in 16 counties, 102 schools, and 4,300 children," said Kathleen Payton, FBEM Backpack Program Coordinator.
The program is open to students across Mid-Michigan who receive free or reduced price lunches.
"We want parents to contact the councilor at their school, and they can either sign up there, or if the school isn't already participating in the program, then the school can contact me, and we'll figure out how to get them hooked up," Payton said.
Every Friday, a student will receive a backpack to take home, filled with enough food for six meals.
"It's going to have two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners, and several snacks. We try to provide enough food for a child and their younger siblings that are at home also," Payton said.
The program is funded through donations alone. $100 provides a backpack for the entire school year. Last year, Shard Financial in Fenton helped raise more than $30,000 alone.
"Our goal was to feed Genesee and to start funding for Bay, and we did that. This year, we're already getting sponsors in, and we're hoping that it gets even bigger," said Margie Shard, Shard Financial president.
Kim Ragsdale says the backpacks have made a big impact at Weston Elementary in the Kearsley district.
"The parents have given us great response that they appreciate the program, and the teachers are seeing a big difference in the learning and how the kids are coming back prepared and ready to go on Monday," she said.
The return of the backpack program helps kicks off September, which is known as 'Hunger Action Month', and there's plenty happening at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
"Our children's programs after-school are starting up, our Kids Cafe, the backpacks program starting up, and we have our Empty Bowls, which is our biggest fundraiser here at the Food Bank. It's just a busy month," Payton said.
For more information on to how to enroll in the Food Bank's backpack program, click HERE.
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