CRESTVIEW — Twenty lower-income Cougars at Northwood Elementary School will soon benefit from a regional weekend food program.
The Bay Area Food Bank's Backpack Program supplements free breakfasts and hot lunches provided at local schools during the week through governmental assistance, Kelli Davis, the food bank’s child nutrition coordinator, said.
“The schools identify students who may not receive enough food over the weekend at home,” Davis said. “Some families are having a rough time. Families are struggling. It’s not those elementary kids’ fault.”
The local Kiwanis Club presented nearly $2,000 to the Backpack Program to fund the effort. Bags of food are slipped into student recipients’ backpacks, hence the program’s name. Each student receives two breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the weekend, Davis said.
The foods — packaged so kids can easily prepare the meals themselves — include selections such as microwaveable spaghetti rings, she said. The food is purchased in bulk using donations such as the $1,820 provided by the Crestview Kiwanis Club, which will feed 20 students at $3.50 a meal.
Northwood reportedly is the first north county school to benefit from the program.
The program will be in place by the third or fourth week in January, Northwood Elementary reading resources teacher and guidance counselor Martha Barton said.
“This is a very good way to very discreetly help our children,” Barton said, adding that slipping meals into students’ backpacks does not overtly single them out as recipients of charity.
Assisting needy children is one of the Kiwanis club’s goals, club President Malcolm Haynes said.
“We’re proud to help our area children,” he said.
The Bay Area Food Bank’s Panhandle branch in Milton will administer the program. The food bank serves the central Gulf Coast including Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
If donors step forward, the program could expand to other area schools, including Baker and Laurel Hill Schools, Davis said.
“We look at their 50 percent or more reduced lunch lists,” she said. “It has to be sponsored by somebody before we can start it, so that’s why it was so helpful that Kiwanis could fund the program at Northwood.”
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.