No one wants to see children going hungry, but we can't turn a blind eye to the fact that more than 13 million children in the United States live in households that don't regularly have enough food.
One school district in Indiana has its eyes wide open to this problem and has found a creative way to ensure kids have nutritious food not just at school, but also over the weekend. It's sending them home with backpacks full of good food that would have otherwise been wasted.
As first reported by WSBT, Elkhart School District students are served breakfast and lunch at school, and now those who need it are also going home with leftovers, packaged as frozen meals, thanks to a non-profit called Cultivate.
Cultivate takes high-quality food that's been prepared for use in school cafeterias but not served and saves it from going to waste by packing into frozen meal trays and then filling cooler backpacks with the trays. "Over-preparing is just part of what happens," Cultivate's board president, Jim Conklin, explains. "We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out if it."
Twenty students at Woodland Elementary School are now benefiting from the backpack program, which is a pilot that could grow.
On Friday afternoons these kids take home backpacks filled with frozen, easy to prepare meals, eight trays in all. That can make a huge difference for parents who don't know how they're going to feed their kids over the weekend.
The Washington Post spoke with Angel Null, a mom with two kids (an 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter) at Woodland Elementary. Her husband was laid off last fall, and the family has struggled financially since. "There's times where its been just peanut butter and jelly," she tells the Post.
But thanks to the backpack program, Null's children came home last Friday with frozen meals to keep them full over the weekend. The got foods like French toast, red velvet macadamia nut pancakes, hot dogs and drumsticks.
For Null, this community support is a huge stress reliever during a difficult time. "There's a peace of mind to know there's something in the fridge," Null said.
As the Post reports, the cafeteria staff at Woodland were thrilled when the backpack program was announced, as they hate throwing away leftover food when they know there are hungry kids in the student body.
This is an amazing example of a community helping parents and children, and hopefully, one that expands to other school districts.