April 21, 2015
Thanks to the generous support of the Niskayuna Community Foundation and MVP
Health Care, the district is establishing a program that will provide students
and families in need with backpacks of food to take home each weekend.
The program was initiated earlier this year on an informal basis by the district's elementary level School Social Worker Jessica Brennan, after she and other staff members noticed that some students in school were hungry. They filled backpacks with non-perishable food for students to take home on the weekends. The backpack approach allows students and families a discrete way to get this important extra help.
Brennan recently applied for and received a $1,000 grant from the Niskayuna Community Foundation to fund the effort. The resulting Niskayuna Community Foundation Weekend Backpack Program serves less than a handful of district families right now. However, the grant funding allows it to be formalized and provides the capacity to serve more.
The district believes it is important to let staff members and families know that this resource is available. Brennan explained that a number of factors, including temporary circumstances such as illness or a work-related injury, can lead to financial difficulty. She said that when times are tough, families often need to stretch their food budgets. The backpack program can help fill in some gaps and be sure that students have the healthy food they need to get the most out of school.
The backpacks are filled with low-sugar foods as well as whole wheat and protein items. Brennan has also partnered with Stewart's for a discounted price on milk cards that are included in the backpacks.
As the program grows, Brennan hopes to identify volunteers in each district schools who will help coordinate the program for that building. Students who receive the backpacks know where to find them each week, and can make picking up the backpack a quick stop toward the end of the day. School staff will help them.
Participation in the program and referrals are confidential. Once school social workers make contact with families, they may also be able to connect them with other helpful resources.
Parents who would like to request assistance or anyone who would like more information about the Niskayuna Community Foundation Backpack Program should call School Social Worker Jessica Brennan at 377-4666 x14602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.