Food for Thought Backpack Program

Area of Focus: Food Insecurity

Lead Club Name: Redding

Lead Rotarian: Malain, Kathy

Year: 2020-21

Project Budget: $25,000.00

DDF Grant Amount: $15,000.00

The goal of the Food for Thought Backpack Program is to help relieve childhood hunger by providing nutritious weekend meals to students during the school year. “Food insecurity” describes households that are so financially stretched that they cannot guarantee regular meals for all household members. Redding Rotary will work together with Redding-Riverview Sunset Rotary in Redding, and the Redding, Enterprise and Pacheco elementary school districts to provide children from seven schools in Redding with a weekend bag of 10 to 11 items of non-perishable, high-protein food every other Friday. The seven schools participating have some of the most impoverished clientele who are “food insecure” over the weekends. These children are usually eligible for the National School Lunch programs and may also be recommended by their teachers. Every other Friday during the school year, these bags of snacks and meals are delivered to the schools to be handed out to children either directly by staff members to their backpacks, or to a parent. Food insecurity is widespread in Shasta County and has been linked to delayed physical and mental development, chronic health problems, increased behavioral problems such as hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, and bullying. All of these affect a child’s ability to learn or productively engage in school activities. This bag of food helps to sustain them over the weekend when they are away from the guaranteed 2 meals at school Monday through Friday, so on Monday they can engage in learning and not be preoccupied with an empty stomach. Loretta W. Montgomery, R.N., BSN, who began the Food for Thought Backpack Program in Redding nine years ago stated at the end of the 2018-19 school year, “We spend an average of $4.20 for each bag and last year it cost more than $5,000 to feed the children. Over the years, the number of food bags requested by the schools has increased from 40 to the current request for 161 bags. We have not ascertained the reason for the sudden increase in bag requests, but only assume the Carr Fire and/or general economic times are the causes. These higher numbers increase the cost and therefore our financial need”. Federal Economic Data indicates that unemployment rates in Shasta County grew from 4.9% in August 2018, to 6.1% in January 2019, to 6.8% in March 2020. The July 1, 2019 United States Census Bureau reported 5.3% of children were living in poverty in California, while 15.2% was the reported poverty level in Shasta County. That was before the widespread loss of health, work, school, and economic hardship inflicted on Shasta County by Covid-19. Rotarians from Redding Rotary and Redding-Riverview Sunset Rotary donated $2,500.00 from each club to the Food for Thought Backpack Program in 2019 and in 2020 to keep the program solvent.

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