While every child has access to nutritious breakfast and lunch during school, the same cannot be said for weekends and school breaks.
The Backpack Buddies program was developed to help ensure that children in the Bemidji school district have access to nutritious, non-perishable and easy-to-prepare food at times when other resources are not available, such as weekends and school vacations.
The intended results of the program are:
1) children will no longer experience hunger or food insecurities; and,
2) their attendance, behavior, academics, social interaction, health and attention span will improve.
The food packs: The program provides backpacks filled with food that is child friendly, nonperishable and easily consumed free of charge. Average weekly menu: 2 entrees, 1 snack, 2 breakfast items, 1 vegetable, 2 fruits, and 2 milks, and 1 high protein. The pre-packaged bags are purchased at around $4.18 each through North Country Food Bank.
The food packs are discretely distributed to children, as best determined by the school, on the last day before weekends and all scheduled school breaks/holiday breaks.
More than 200 Bemidji area students that have been referred by school staff, as experiencing food insecurity or hunger, are enrolled in the Backpack Buddies program.
The program is currently running at JW Smith, Central, Lincoln, and Solway Elementary Schools, with emergency packs provided through the District's Homeless Liaison at the Bemidji Middle and High Schools.