child at school drinking milkDuring the 2021-22 school year, the programs distributed the equivalent of 2.1 million meals to nearly 8,000 students in 270 schools. This year, we expect to exceed both meals provided and children served as we work to get additional fresh food out to partner schools.

Since the programs’ inception 15 years ago, one feature has remained the same: the Food Bank’s Children’s Programs are referral driven. School staff, including teachers, social workers, nurses and cafeteria workers can all refer children into the program based on what they know about the students and their circumstances at home. Children will often talk to trusted school staff about not having enough food to eat at home or exhibit behaviors associated with chronic food insecurity.

Children who need the nutritional support the programs provide but are ineligible for more formal safety net programs can still receive food. These are the children who “slip through the cracks” but still have demonstrable need.

The benefit of referral forms was underscored in a recent survey of BackPack households: 58% of participating families did not receive SNAP benefits. Within that group, over 55% were ineligible for the benefit. The Food Bank’s Children’s Programs will give these hungry children food regardless of their status in more stringent programs. (In an effort to encourage enrollment in SNAP, the Food Bank will distribute information on the program to all participating families.)


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