According to Feeding America, one in eight children live in a household where there is inconsistent access to food. Within Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet counties, that number can increase significantly depending on the school district. As a result, many children face challenges at school. Hunger decreases a child’s ability to concentrate and learn, and keeps them from achieving their full potential.
Children facing hunger are more likely to:
- Repeat a grade in elementary school
- Experience developmental impairments in areas like language and motor skills
- Have more social and behavioral problems
Manna’s “Food 4 Kids” program helps address this issue by providing elementary students with a backpack of kid-friendly food. Since students are not able to receive school meals on Saturdays and Sundays, these backpacks provide children with supplemental food items to last them through the weekend.
Each schools runs their own programs and determines which students receive backpacks through various methods.
Each week of the school year, dedicated volunteers assemble and deliver over 1,800 backpacks to 30 elementary schools, pre-school and head start programs, and public libraries.
With the help of a dietitian and student surveys, we frequently update the contents in the backpacks to make sure they are healthy and kid-approved. Each backpack includes a variety of items to supplement breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, and plenty of snacks. The contents rotate frequently, but a sample of what goes into the bags is:
- 2 cereal packs
- 1 Belvita breakfast bars
- 2 organic applesauce pouch
- 1 oatmeal bar
- 2 whole wheat giant grahams
- 1 chicken ramen
- 1 mac and cheese
For the 2023-2024 school year, the cost of the backpack program will exceed $300,000 with an estimated cost of $5.00 per backpack.
Our volunteers often say this is their favorite program at Manna, and it is highly recognized by children in the participating schools. Here are some of the things they’ve said in our follow-up surveys:
- “They are fabulous and we are SOOOO grateful for them and all the volunteers that make it possible!”
- “[I feel] a bit more secure about my next meal.”
- “They make me feel happy and not so hungry over the weekend.”
- “I worry less about what I am gonna eat. I hate being scared about it so I hide it and so does my sister.”
- “My teacher says I get one because I am a very special person and someone cares about me enough to make sure I have the bags. That makes me feel very happy, but I know it is because we never have food. Thank you for helping me, I hate being hungry all the time.”
Backpack delivery drivers receive group hugs, sweet comments, stories, and cheerful thank-yous from the children when they drop off the backpacks. In this way, “Food 4 Kids” holds a special place in our hearts.
To become a delivery driver, fill out our online application here.