Food Bank Program Helping Local Students

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It's a Brazos Valley Food Bank program designed to make sure students in need don't go hungry at home.

Every Friday and during holidays students selected by their school get backpacks full of healthy and ready to eat snacks.

It's called the BackPack program and it was developed at the Arkansas Rice Depot in Little Rock after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students were coming to her with stomach aches and dizziness.

There are now more than 110 America's Second Harvest Network Members operating BackPack Programs in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
Nationally, Members distribute as many as 35,000 backpacks each week.

The program assists mostly kids that receive free meals at school.

"It means a lot to me to see them happy and to know they are not going to go without food that particular weekend," Cecelia Dominguez with Kemp Elementary said.

The Brazos Valley Food Bank, with funds from the United Way Youth Cabinet, piloted the first BackPack Program in the Brazos Valley in November 2005.

Today, the program is in six schools: Kemp Elementary, Carver Early Childhood Learning Center, Sul Ross Elementary, Navarro Elementary, Southwood Valley Elementary and College Hills Elementary.

The program is funded by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the cities of Bryan and College Station, the United Way Youth Leadership Cabinet and private donations.

120 backpacks go out to area students every weekend.

"There are drinks and there are fruits and stuff like that," one student said. "I love the snacks."

"I'm excited that it helps us and that we can eat more," another student said.

Backpacks are used, so the children aren't singled out by their peers.

"No one else knows why they're receiving them or what is in it," Dominguez said. "So the kids will not feel uncomfortable that they're being assisted with the food."

For these kids, it's something special, something they can't wait for, and something they wouldn't get at home.

The food bank, according to carefully planned menus, fills the backpacks with items including: granola bars, cereal bars, tuna salad kits, cheese and cracker kits, Meal Breaks (healthy shelf-stable versions of the Lunchables), juice, water, cereal, shelf-stable milk, and Easy Mac N Cheese.

These items can be donated during the Food For Families Food Drive Thursday from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at The Brazos Center.
There are also drop-off locations at The Kimbrough Center in Madisonville and Mid-South Synergy in Navasota.