ST. PARIS – Hungry students at Graham Local Schools have prompted administrators and staff to start a “backpack” program.
The program provides meals for students to take home during weekends and holiday breaks.
Graham Elementary School Counselor Melissa Erter got the idea from Urbana City Schools’ backpack program.
“Last year I noticed a lot of kids came in the morning hungry,” she said. “Some didn’t have breakfast at home, so we made sure we got food for them. Then our FFA donated some of the fruit from the fruit sales. We would send that home with kids and we saw their reactions. They were excited to get it.”
Erter spoke with Sarah Finch, who started the Urbana City Schools backpack program, to get an idea of how to start it. The idea is to provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for students over the course of a weekend or long holiday break. Though it is called a “backpack” program, the food doesn’t need to be contained in backpacks.
An estimated 50 to 60 students may be part of the program this year, Graham Elementary Assistant Principal Chad Lensman said. How many students are helped depends on the need.
“We know we have kids that are going through the weekend with not a lot of food. We want to try everything we can,” he said.
Graham schools has approximately 38 percent of its students on free and reduced lunch costs. Students in that category do not pay or pay a minimal amount for meals at school. The district also instituted breakfast for all students at the schools.
Elementary Principal Chad Miller said the program is good for the students and fits in with the district’s goals.
“It falls right in with our new strategic plan, as we are trying to look at some of the barriers to help our students and our families,” he said.
Administrators hope to start the program in October. It will be completely funded by donations.
The district currently has $2,000 in donations to get the program started from KTH Parts Industries, Land O’ Lakes and Trupoint, Lensman said. Donations can be made to the school district by contacting the elementary school at 937-663-4449.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.