The Food Bank of Central Louisiana is stuffing 1,200 backpacks with food as it launches its school backpack program next week. The Food Bank has partnered with 26 elementary schools in seven central Louisiana parishes. On Fridays, children in the program receive a backpack full of food that will help keep them from going hungry over the weekend. The Food Bank’s executive director Jayne Wright-Valez said she works with school principals to identify the children in need.
“We ask them to identify children who only may be eating at school. On Fridays, they take a backpack full of food home for the weekend, and it’s food that children can prepare regardless of whether there’s an adult in the home," Wright-Valez said.
The Food Bank of Central Louisiana serves 22,000 people, but Wright-Valez said, the need is almost three times that number, based on government figures on food insecurity in central Louisiana. While the backpack program is growing, Wright-Valez believes there are many more children who could be helped by it, especially in Avoyelles Parish.
"We’ve seen some incredible need in Avoyelles Parish. So, we’re really trying to get some of the schools there to participate in the program because some of those schools have free and reduced lunch participation rates at almost at 100 percent. We know there are children there that need our help," Wright-Valez said.
September is Hunger Action Month across the country. Wright-Valez has created a calendar on the Food Bank’s Web site that gives 30 ways families can help fight hunger in their communities. One way, she says, is by helping stuff backpacks on Saturdays or in the evenings.