By Allison Collins
SIDNEY – Several area groups came together last Thursday to present nearly $3,000 to facilitate continuation of the BackPack Program, designed to alleviate hunger among at-risk area students.
According to a media statement, the BackPack Program helps “meet the needs of hungry children on weekends when school breakfasts and lunches aren’t available (by) providing bags filled with food that is child-friendly, nonperishable and easily consumed.”
Thanks to a $700 district grant awarded to the Rotary Club of Sidney and $1,170 of local club backing, plus an $875 donation from the Sidney United Way, five Sidney Elementary children will receive food over a three-year period.
The cost to feed one child for a year is $183.
The program, implemented at Sidney in October 2014 and currently serving 16 students, operates under the auspices of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The groups’ contributions will help the program expand to include 20 enrollees.
The BackPack Program’s execution is carried out locally through St. Luke’s Church Food Bank volunteers in cooperation with Sidney Elementary counselors. The roughly 450 bagfuls distributed each school year contain the equivalent of about 2,700 meals. The program operates in 220 schools across 20 counties, feeding approximately 6,500 kids.
St. Luke’s pastor Ernie Varga said he introduced the program after learning about it during a previous pastor appointment in Hudson.
“I thought it was a good thing to bring to Sidney,” he said, “and it has moved forward into a community project that helps our kids.” Though administered through St. Luke’s, the BackPack program is nondenominational.