Through partnerships with local schools, businesses and other community groups, the Kids Pack program provides homeless and very low-income school children with backpacks filled with nutritious foods each weekend, when school meals are not available.
The goal of the Kids Pack program is to ensure that food-insecure and hungry children have food during the weekends so they are able to engage in school and succeed!
Kids Pack serves 1,200 children each week and is available in the following school districts:
- Chino Valley Unified School District
- Fontana Unified School District
- Ontario-Montclair School District
- Pomona Unified School District
- Redlands Unified School District
- Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District
1 in 4 children in this region live in poverty and are at risk of going to bed hungry. In fact, more than half of the children in public schools within the Inland Empire United Way’s service area are enrolled in the federal free and reduced meal program at their schools, and many children rely on these meals as their major source of nutrition during the week. The Kids Pack program provides food to these children during the weekend, when school meals are not available.
Research shows that hunger, even in its mildest forms, can have a lasting negative effect on children. Hungry children have poorer overall health and, as a result, miss more days of school and are less prepared to learn when they are able to attend. They are also more likely to have stunted growth, fatigue, poorer mental health, be withdrawn or socially disruptive, and suffer greater rates of behavioral disorders. The critical connection between nutrition and a child’s development cannot be ignored. We believe every child should have the chance to succeed. Through Kids Pack, we are working to ensure that they do.
HOW WE WORK
The United Way partners with local school districts and case management organizations to identify the children most in need of Kids Pack services. These homeless and very low-income children are often living in motels, garages, or in sub-standard and overcrowded housing situations where even basic utilities such as electricity and water may not be available.
Every Friday before leaving school, children enrolled in the program pick up a backpack from a trusted staff member. The packs are distributed in a manner that considers the child’s privacy and self-esteem. Each Kids Pack is filled with nutritious, non-perishable, easy-to-prepare foods that are high in protein and vitamin C, which are often lacking in the diets of low-income children. The child takes the backpack home for the weekend and then returns it to school on the following Monday. Not only does the Kids Pack provide the child with nourishment over the weekend, but it also provides security, consistency, and a sense of belonging.
Kids Pack makes a real difference! Children who participate in Kids Pack have consistently demonstrated an improvement in their grades, attendance, behaviour and participation in school.
Last year, 32,000 Kids Pack backpacks of food were delivered to hungry kids, which is the equivalent of approximately 96,000 meals. 1,215 children from 75 schools and 6 districts participated in the program in the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, over 94% of teachers reported that Kids Pack had a positive impact on their students' school performance and that they would worry their students would not have enough to eat over the weekends without Kids Pack.