Weekend Backpack Food Program Ensures Local Kids Have Enough to Eat
Hundreds of area students rely on their school campus for regular daily meals. And for many, when school ends for the week, so does their daily food supply.
One local charity, however, is stepping up to fill the need.
“One in four children in Southeast Texas is at risk for hunger,” says Jeanne Allain, Backpack Program director with Cy-Hope. “They don’t have enough food.”
Jeanne directs the organization’s backpack program, which distributes free food to schoolchildren who otherwise risk going hungry during the weekends or school holidays. The food, mostly nonperishable canned goods and snacks, is provided and packed by the Houston Food Bank. Volunteers then deliver the food in backpacks to school leaders. Students receive enough supplies to make weekend breakfast and lunch for a family of four. Students pick up the backpacks on Friday afternoon and return them empty on Mondays.
“We get kids who are so excited to pick up the bags because they know they’re going to have food for the weekend,” Jeanne says. “So it’s one of those little things that makes a big impact.”
School leaders report that students who receive the food show improved attendance and behavior, Jeanne says.
The program, which launched in 2011, started with just two schools, two volunteers and 80 bags of food. It now covers 69 schools and feeds 1,500 children. Only those who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch are eligible to apply. The program runs from September through May. Cy-Hope’s goal is to enlist all 49 area schools considered Title I, a low-income federal designation.
Jeanne says Cypress-area residents might have a misconception that there’s no need for this kind of program in this area. Her program even services students who are considered homeless at some of the most seemingly affluent campuses.
“Sometimes you don’t realize the need in your backyard,” Jeanne says. “It’s such an important program in our area because there is a need right here in our own community.”
Volunteers and donations are always welcome. The program routinely needs drivers to take the backpacks from Cy-Hope’s property on Telge Road to each campus on Wednesdays. Donations are also helpful to defray the costs of purchasing some 3,000 new backpacks for the coming school year.