Adopt a backpack, feed a child

By Kathreen Harrison | Aug 06, 2015

Food insecurity means not being able to count on three meals a day, and according to the Area Interfaith Outreach Program, "food insecure" describes almost half of the children in Knox County. The impact of regular hunger on children's learning cannot be overestimated. Nurses, guidance counselors and teachers can all give examples of many children who do not reach their potential in school because they are dealing with the effects of hunger.

The problem of hunger for children living in poverty is worst on weekends, when free school breakfasts and lunches are not available. AIO is starting a program in September at South School and Rockland District Middle School to address this problem of weekend hunger. At these schools the population of food-insecure children is very high -- the proportion those entitled to free or reduced lunches exceeds 65 percent.

The new program is called the Weekend Backpack Program, and the intention is to gradually expand it to additional schools in RSU 13 and throughout the county. The program supplies a child with enough food to take home on Friday to feed himself through the weekend, and also provide his family with one solid meal. The food is chosen carefully to appeal to children and to be nutritious. Teachers place the food in the child’s backpack while the children are out of the classroom on Fridays, thereby avoiding embarrassing needy children in front of their peers.

The program relies on community support. Sherry Cobb, spokesperson for AIO, in a short, informative video entitled "Rockland Backpack Program" (on Vimeo), says “We believe the community will come forward once they know how serious the problem is.”

AIO is offering a $225 Adopt a Backpack program, which fills a backpack for one child every Friday for one school year. Supporters can also donate another amount of their choosing (no amount is too small) and send it to:

Area Interfaith Outreach

Weekend Backpacks

P.O. Box 113

Rockland, ME 04841

AIO’s program fills me with hope for the many hungry children I have taught in our area schools. Cobb said, “When I look at the children on the playground, I think that they’re all mine.” If you, like Cobb, feel empathy for the many hungry children in our towns and believe all children deserve a fair start in life, consider supporting the Weekend Backpack program. I encourage residents of any town – not just Rockland – to support this inaugural year of the program. It takes a village.

To learn more, visit knoxadoptabackpack.org and watch the short film "Rockland Backpack Program" produced By Maine Media 4Wk Filmschool from Christopher Lehmann on Vimeo.

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