The Emergency Food Network and the St. Leo Food Connection are partnering on a new program – BREAK BAGS – that will provide low-income families with students in the Clover Park and Tacoma Public School Districts with food for the upcoming spring break.
Thousands of children in Pierce County School Districts rely on free and reduced-fee meals during the school day. When holiday weeks arrive, these kids often struggle to get enough nutritious food at home. The St. Leo Food Connection has been providing two-days worth of food for children in Tacoma and Lakewood schools every Friday through the school year since January 2008, but until now has not been able to provide larger bags of food for families over extended school breaks.
“We are often asked what we do for the extended school breaks. Until now the answer has been nothing. Partnering with the Emergency Food Network is allowing us to help bridge the nutrition gap that occurs when children are not able to access school meals,” said St. Leo Food Connection Director Kevin Glackin-Coley.
The Emergency Food Network is providing food for the program, and volunteers will be packing the Break Bags (donated by Schnitzer Steel) at their Lakewood warehouse on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 26th. Helen McGovern, Executive Director of the Emergency Food Network noted “there are so many wonderful organizations providing baskets during the holidays. Our goal is to provide them with an opportunity to spread that same generosity out over the entire school year. There will be a hands on activity for donors and the money that they may now be spending on one basket will provide food for an entire week for the same families. Win-win!!”
The 500 bags will include fresh produce as well as shelf stable staples such as rice, pasta, beans and peanut butter and will be delivered by St. Leo Food Connection and Emergency Food Network volunteers to the partner schools for students to take home on March 28th. Partner schools include 5 Clover Park (Lake Louise, Tillicum, Dower, Custer, Lochburn) and 7 Tacoma (McCarver, Blix, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Larchmont, Birney, and Lister) Public Schools.
The need for the program is highlighted by a 2013 report from the Children’s Alliance that estimates that 440,000 children in Washington, or 25%, live in households where there’s not enough food for everyone to eat. The report also noted that hunger is growing more rapidly in Washington than in most other states. Hungry children suffer from health problems such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches and frequent colds. They are more likely to be ill and absent from school and typically cannot concentrate or do as well as others when they are at school.