No Peas, Please. A guest blog by Sharon Alexander

September 4, 2012

Sharon Alexander, is the Development Coordinator at Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and NE Pennsylvania

“What do you like most in your bag?”

“Do you like grape jelly?”

“What about potatoes?”

These are examples of questions we asked in a taste test we recently conducted with the kids who receive a weekly bag of food as part of our Backpack Buddies program at Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and NE Pennsylvania. Some of the answers we found were typical of what you would expect from school-aged children; others surprised us.

At Second Harvest, we encourage our member agencies to run their pantries in the “Client Choice” style – allow their participants to pick the items they want (and know their family will eat) rather than handing them a bag that has been pre-packed with food that might go to waste because no one will eat it. Why shouldn’t this mentality be carried over to our Backpack Buddies program?

Backpack Buddies serves 346 kids each week through 9 organizations in the Lehigh Valley. The majority of our sites follow the “Choice” model, allowing participants to browse the shelves and pick out the items they like. The kids are still required to take fruits and vegetables (no backpacks filled with candy), but they can choose for themselves if they want the pineapples or applesauce and the green beans or the corn.

As the Feeding America member that fills those shelves for the Backpack Buddies sites, we wanted to make sure we were indeed filling them with what participants like. And now we know – many backpack recipients like the cookies and candy we include (as we would expect, they’re kids after all) but they also like the canned vegetables and fruit. Tuna fish is the preferred protein and almost nobody likes canned peas. By using this feedback, we can make sure we at Second Harvest are purchasing food that will serve our purpose – to provide meals and to prevent the malnutrition that can have long-lasting effects on a child’s growth and ability to learn.

Pack ‘til They’re Back

This back to school season, Feeding America and its nationwide network of food banks are working to make sure that kids don’t go hungry over weekends and school holidays. In partnership with C&S Wholesale Grocers, “Pack ‘til They’re Back” is an awareness campaign to help spread the word about child hunger and Feeding America’s BackPack Program.

Posted by Dan Michel on September 4, 2012 at 4:56 PM in Local Efforts
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Shannon, what a great way to incorporate choice into kids meals! We often talk about client choice for adults at agencies or mobile pantries and the same benefit should be extended to children who often times are very opinionated about their likes/dislikes. It’s a win-win for everyone – no food is wasted and the kids are happy with their backpack of items they like. Good work!

Posted by Jaspreet Bindra | September 11, 2012 at 4:10 PM

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