In response to the COVID-19 evolving situation, schools across Louisiana began to move their lessons to an online platform to keep staff and students safe. This step, while necessary, did present a challenge for students that rely on our BackPack program throughout the school year.
Children in the National School Lunch Program now do not have the security of two meals a day at school. Parents and other caregivers who depend on those meals for their children to manage their household budget must now factor in children in the house full time likely through the summer. Furthermore, we were unable to distribute the backpacks due to the school closures and a total of 1,500 pre-packaged bags of nonperishable food items were sitting idle in our warehouse.
Our annual BackPack Program grantor, BASF, was able to help us find a new way to distribute these meals safely.
“Nutrition plays a critical role for children as they are growing, developing and learning, and during this unprecedented time we wanted to ensure our support would continue to help the most vulnerable,” said Sarah Haneline, BASF employee and Food Bank board member. “After consulting with David Alexander with Ascension Parish Schools, the Food Bank and the Donaldsonville Mayor’s Office, we determined the best course of action would be to distribute the remaining backpacks through the school feeding program in Donaldsonville so that children in need would have access to nutritious meals while schools are closed.”
With the meal sites being closed during the weekend, our distribution was held on Friday, March 20 at two Donaldsonville meal site locations to ensure children were fed over the weekend. This is similar to our normal distribution of BackPacks being held on Fridays when school was in session to ensure meals are met over the weekend. Also, our board member Tamiko Garrison was able to coordinate on the grounds as an Ascension Parish community member.
“On behalf of the City of Donaldsonville, I would like to thank the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and BASF for collaborating with Mayor Leroy Sullivan, the Donaldsonville City Council members, and David Alexander, Superintendent, Ascension Parish School Board,” said Garrison. “The looks on the children’s and parent’s faces receiving the food were priceless. Both drive-thru locations were a success. I am thankful to say that over 1,500 bags containing 3-4 days of non-perishable food was distributed to the youth of Donaldsonville. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!”