The Feeding America organization’s BackPack Program helps provide food for students to take home during the weekend when they do not have access to daily meals and nutritious snacks.
Two Moscow elementary schools, West Park and Russell, offer the program, said Mimi Pengilly, Moscow schools nutrition director. The program is funded by the Idaho Food Bank in Lewiston, which provides the food.
Craig Cain, who primarily works with the Boise branch of the Idaho Food Bank, said volunteers put the backpacks together, sorting the food items from bulk containers and placing 13 different products into the packs. The 13 nutrition-conscious items are intended to provide a child healthy meals Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, when school food services are not available.
Cari Miller, branch manager at the North Central Idaho Food Bank in Lewiston, said the BackPack Program is completely funded through donations. She said each backpack costs $6.20. There are about 200 backpacks in circulation for students in Lewiston and Moscow.
The food for the backpacks is delivered to the schools monthly, and school guidance counselors work with Pengilly to determine which students are the best candidates to receive backpacks.
Russell School Principal Edward Norman said his school’s counselor works closely with some of the families who are in need of the BackPack program.
The counselor loads the boxes and food products into the backpacks and then sends them with children on their way out of school on Friday, Norman said. The students bring the backpacks back on the following Monday.
Through the BackPack Program, “we are able to make sure that those kids have a good meal or two in a day, which really does help them with their academics,” Norman said. “It is part of what we do for kids and it’s something that we can say we are making a difference.”
Local food banks are another source of food for families during the week and the weekend.
“I recommend the food banks here in Moscow to numerous families who call me with requests for help,” Pengilly said. “Certainly, we’re fortunate. We’ve got a couple of really good food banks here and they really fill a need.”
Food items in the backpacks
- One can of ravioli with beef
- One package of macaroni and cheese (microwaveable)
- One shelf-stable carton of 1 percent white milk
- One carton of skim chocolate milk
- One pack of Honey-Nut Scooters cereal
- One pack of instant oatmeal
- One fruit drink
- One mandarin orange cup
- One pineapple tidbits cup
- One container of rice with chicken and vegetable bits
- One chewy trail mix bar
- One can of beef chili with beans
- One pack of goldfish grahams
These items are expected to provide two days of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Emily Vaartstra a senior journalism major at the University of Idaho.