To grow and thrive, children need a healthy diet. But in Massachusetts, about 1 in 8 children doesn’t get enough to eat, according to Food for Free, a non-profit based in Cambridge.
The situation only gets worse on the weekends when those kids no longer get subsidized lunches.
Food for Free created “Weekend Backpack,” a program that sends children who rely on free or reduced lunches home with a full bag of nutritious snacks and sandwiches every Friday.
“They’re excited to open their bag and see what’s there, and to know that somebody cares about them,” said Sasha Purpura, the executive director of Food for Free. “It gives parents some relief in not worrying about their child getting enough food over the weekend.”
This concept started in Cambridge seven years ago and has expanded to Somerville.
“This issue reaches every community”
One group is working hard to fill backpacks…with nutritious food.
Its a program that’s catching on across the state.
7am Wednesday @boston25 pic.twitter.com/mb0WT1qyoA
— Scott McDonnell (@ScottMcDonnell_) December 3, 2019
“We’ve had more and more families signing on,” said Meghan Bouchard, a family and community liaison coordinator for Somerville Public Schools. She says the need is great and that the food they go home with helps them arrive back at school on Monday, ready to learn.
“It’s a basic need, it’s as simple as that,” Bouchard said. “If they’re hungry in our schools, they’re not going to be up for learning as easily as kids who come to school not hungry. We want to play a role in being those equalizers, making sure every kid has what they need.”
Food for Free wants to help even more communities develop their own programs and has an online toolkit with resources, frequently asked questions and tips on starting a Weekend Backpack program in other communities.
“This issue reaches every community,” said Purpura. “People don’t realize there are hungry children in Concord, in Lincoln. There are.”
Volunteers spend a few hours helping assemble the backpacks but it’s a feeling that stays with them throughout the day.
“If I could start my day every day like this, I would,” said volunteer Katie Puzo. “I am grateful there are organizations who are doing this kind of work to give kids access to food.”
So far about 30 organizations in communities across Massachusetts have downloaded the toolkit.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.