Montana Food Bank Network: BackPack Program
The BackPack Program’s purpose is to improve students’ academic performance and physical health by providing them with the nutritious food necessary for them to learn, thrive, and grow, rather focusing on than the effects of chronic hunger. The program was started at DeSmet School in Missoula in January 2008 and continues to serve 40 students each week! Since this time, the program has spread throughout the state and MFBN currently provides BackPack meals at 106 sites in 46 communities throughout Montana.
The program provides bags filled with food that is child-friendly, non-perishable, and easily prepared at home. BackPack bags are discreetly distributed to children on the last day before the weekend or school holiday to ensure that children have enough to eat when away from school meals. Each BackPack bag contains enough food for one child to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and snacks on Saturday and Sunday as well as milk, juice, and a treat! When elementary students are referred through their school coordinator, any preschool siblings at home are automatically enrolled and receive their own BackPack bag each week.
Nearly one in six children in Montana currently live in food insecure households, unsure of where their next meal will come from. Programs have been implemented in many schools to ensure that at-risk children receive food during the school day but don’t address the need when school is out. The BackPack Program ensures that at-risk children receive food during holidays and weekend breaks.