The YES! Backpack Program is Back

school backpack

 

The YES! Backpack Program commences its 5th year of service this week, as 19 backpacks make their way home with GCS students this Friday. Backpack food programs provide nutritious, non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food to children to ensure they get enough food on weekends and holidays when they can’t depend on school meals.

The program is a partnership between Comfort Food Community (CFC), the Greenwich Central School District and the Greenwich PTSA. CFC takes a lead role in financing the program, with fundraising support coming from the PTSA throughout the school year (one hundred percent of the funding for the Backpack Program comes from individual donations). CFC and Greenwich Central School share the administrative and operational responsibilities required to plan, coordinate and operate the program for students and their families.  In 2015, the YES! Backpack Program became part of the Regional Food Bank backpack program, which has been a huge source of support.  CFC Program Coordinator, Dona Barth, explains, “Running the backpack program through the Regional Food Bank has been a life-saver. It cuts down on cost and the time and energy spent running around to different stores to shop for food. We’re very happy to be partners with them.”

Each week, bags are packed with a menu of food options designed by the Regional Food Bank’s program director to toe the line between kid friendly and healthy. Among an assortment of healthy non-perishable snack and meal options, backpacks also include fresh fruit, bread and a milk card to Stewart’s.  “Backpack programs are so important for student readiness,” Jen Mueller, Elementary and Middle School Principal, commented. “I had the opportunity to work closely on the program when I was at Hudson Falls and I am excited to continue that work here in Greenwich.”

This year, for the first time, the YES! Backpack Program will be operated without Jen O’Connor at the helm.  Jen played a crucial role in getting the program started in 2014 and has served as the school coordinator for the past four years. Under her leadership, thousands of pounds of food have been distributed to Greenwich families to support their health and well-being.  Her service is so appreciated by so many in this community.

A few changes are being made to the structure of the program to help with the transition in leadership and to plan for the program’s long-term stability. The Backpack Program will now be an official sub-committee to the Greenwich Wellness Committee, which will provide support through planning and oversight. Direct program management will come under the purview of the school social worker. That position has not, yet, been filled, but it is a natural fit for the person that will be stepping into that role. Finally, packing, inventorying, reporting and other weekly responsibilities will be managed by student volunteers with the support of Brenda Facin and the Guidance office.

The YES! Backpack Program is just one example of the Greenwich community’s commitment to making sure that every student that walks through the doors at GCS is ready to learn and reach their potential.  Thank you for helping to ensure that no child goes to school hungry.