Every weekend, holiday and school vacation, hundreds of low-income children, who depend on free or reduced-price school lunches, become at risk of hunger. 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. 

The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank’s BackPack program is a donor-funded critical outreach project designed to help fill the void for low-income children. These children are at risk of missing meals over the weekend or during holidays when they are not in school and receiving free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program.

Backpacks are filled with a selection of nutritious, child friendly food items and then distributed to at-risk children enrolled in the program in select elementary schools. The backpacks are then discreetly sent home with children as young as pre-k and as old as fifth grade on Friday and returned empty on Monday morning. While the program does receive some funding from individuals, the program is in large part made possible through grants and corporate donations.

“This simple, effective program was designed to help alleviate the negative impact of children going without meals and improve their overall well-being,” said Mike Manning, President and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. “Hunger does not take a break during weekends or holidays, and we are grateful for each donor and community partner, like Red Nose Day, who continue to help us make this program possible.”

Red Nose Day, a nationwide annual event, raises money and awareness to help kids in need around the world. Red Nose Day’s successful 2019 campaign and event resulted in another year of child hunger grants to all Feeding America Food Banks.