“The Backpack Program” helps fight hunger in WestchesterPosted: Updated:
As kids across the Hudson Valley head back to school this week, food assistance programs are helping children who don't always know where their next meal is coming from.
Officials say that 20% of Westchester residents are hungry, and 60,000 of those residents are kids. “A lot of kids go home on [the] weekend here in Westchester and they open the refrigerator and the light goes on but there's not much going on inside the fridge,” says Leslie Gordon, CEO of Feeding Westchester.
Gordon says her food bank's top priority is ending hunger for children who need it most. “It's really to gain access to good nutrition so they can progress normally across the development stages as they grow.”
Volunteers are helping out by packing bags of lunch and delivering weekly meals to students at school called the “The Backpack Program.” The kids then take the bags home to enjoy on weekends, holidays and vacations. “We take great care in partnerships with school districts and community centers, youth service organizations to protect the dignity of kids on the receiving end,” says Gordon.
Students in the Ossining School District are some of the many recipients around the county benefiting from the initiative. “Food insecurity is real, and we feel like if we can partner with an organization like Feeding Westchester that it can help us make a difference and support our families who we care deeply about,” says Ossining Superintendent DR. Ray Sanchez.
Sanchez says nearly 60% of the student population is enrolled in the program. “This program is more than just giving the food, it's giving it to them with high levels of dignity and not making them feel different than their other peers and so having something prepared in such a way that looks like mom or dad or a family member prepared the bag goes a long way.”