Bridging the Gap Between Friday’s Lunch and Monday’s Breakfast
May 12, 2010
Today in America, nearly one in four children struggle on a daily basis with hunger. Federal school breakfast and lunch programs curb their appetites during the school week, but many families have little help to rely on over the course of the weekend and holidays. Two days without adequate food can do a lot to hinder a child’s productivity and nutritional needs.
The Feeding America BackPack Program strives to fill the gap for hungry children between their Friday lunches and Monday breakfasts by offering a weekend’s supply of nutritious foods. The process starts when children are identified by teachers or counselors as high risk students. Each Friday afternoon, these children receive a parcel including kid friendly, easy to prepare items such as shelf-stable milk, easy to make pasta, proteins, cereal and other items to keep them full over the weekend. Each student can take these packages home in a discreet bag or backpack, allowing them to avoid any stigma associated with receiving free food. You can learn more about the program by viewing our BackPack video.
Today, the BackPack Program serves more than 190,000 children in 3600 programs across the country. While this program has been incredibly successful in helping children over the weekend, there is still much work to do. Unlike the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which are both federally funded, there is currently no targeted federal program to feed children during weekends and extended school vacations. The BackPack Program has shown success in filling this gap, but Feeding America food banks can only reach a small proportion of children eligible for federal child nutrition programs.
Thankfully, two Members of Congress have stepped up to address this important issue. Representative Dina Titus (NV) and Senator Arlen Specter (PA) have introduced the Weekends Without Hunger Act in the House and Senate. The bill would establish a five year pilot to provide federal commodities for programs that distribute nutritious food to at-risk school children on weekends and during extended school holidays.
We hope this legislation will be included in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill as it works its way through the House and Senate. You can help us advance this bill in Congress by calling your Senators and Representative and ask them to co-sponsor the Weekends Without Hunger Act. To find the contact information for your Members of Congress, visit our Hunger Action Center and click My Info.