Program offers students free lunch during vacation
United Way of St. Charles, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and St. Charles Parish Public Schools, introduced the Lagniappe Backpack Program to provide meals for 150 school children during weekends and school vacations.
The Lagniappe Backpack Program is an initiative designed to meet the needs of hungry children during times when other resources such as free and reduced school breakfast and lunch are not available.
“An increasing number of parents are finding it difficult to provide nutritious food for their children,” Natalie Jayroe, President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank, said. “We are grateful to the United Way of St. Charles Parish for their support and allowing us to extend the Lagniappe Backpack Program to children in need in St. Charles Parish.”
United Way of St. Charles began providing the backpack program in August 2009 to two St. Charles Parish elementary schools- St. Rose and Luling Elementary. The schools were chosen based on the large percentage of students receiving free or reduced breakfast and lunch. Seventy-five children at each school in kindergarten through second grades are participating.
Each week, Second Harvest Food Bank delivers bags stocked with nutritious, child-friendly, easy to prepare items from each of the food groups to the schools. The bags are then distributed discreetly in student’s backpacks by by their teacher each Friday.
Students are referred to the program by counselor or teacher recommendations. Staff at the schools then follow up with the families to invite them to participate in the program and makes sure all siblings of the participating students are also provided with food.
“The backpack program is going great,” Jane Petit, a Luling Elementary kindergarten teacher, said. “We follow up with every family and the response for the program has been very positive. The families are really grateful for this program.”
The Lagniappe Backpack Program is provided by the United Way of St. Charles to help address the serious need for food that has emerged in St. Charles Parish. In addition, United Way of St. Charles also funds a food distribution event, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and St. Charles Community Health Center, on the last Saturday of each month at the Community Health Center in Luling.
“Over the last year we have seen the need for basic needs assistance increase, including the need for one of the most basic needs of all- food,” Kacy Kernan, United Way of St. Charles’ director of community impact. “Ideally, we would like to expand these programs to provide food to more families and children in need.”
The Lagniappe Backpack Program and Second Harvest Food Distribution are made possible because of donations to the United Way of St. Charles from contributors throughout the community.
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