BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Imagine being a kid going hungry over the weekend.
That's a realty for more than 1,000 children across the greater Baton Rouge region.
But the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank makes sure these kids have food to eat by sending them home with backpacks full of food for the weekend.
"We were hearing things from principals about kids hoarding their free or reduced lunch to bring home to a little brother or sister so we wanted to make sure that we could try to do something to help kids to maybe get them out of the situation where they can learn and they can advance and grow," explained Mike Manning, CEO and President of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
Elementary school students who currently qualify for a free or reduced lunch can participate in the Backpack Program. Some East Baton Rouge schools qualify for the entire school to be on free or reduced lunches.
The food bank gives these students a backpack at the beginning of the school year.
Every weekend, they fill a grocery bag with food for students to take home. The bag is filled with items like cereal and peanut butter, things that will not spoil quickly.
Currently, the food bank serves between 1,200-1,300 students across 13 schools and three parishes.
"We're looking at expanding potentially into how can we get into the middle schools or high schools," said Manning. "We're looking at trying to do some high school pantries to where the administration and students themselves can administer and run the pantry so they can also have food available for them so that they don't go through the same situation that the elementary school kids are."
The food bank also makes sure these students have enough food to eat during holiday breaks.
With fall break, Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, for some students that means at least a week or two without food.
Before these long breaks, the food bank provides more food to make sure these students have enough during that time period.
Volunteers work to pack the grocery bags and backpacks with food but monetary donations are always needed.
The food bank purchases the food to make sure it's not expired and so each student receives the same thing.
"We incur some significant costs to buy the food to get it distributed so it's a little more expensive program for us but we see so much benefit and we hear so much back from the teachers," explained Manning. "Anecdotal evidence and you know, they'll tell us this child was not behaving but they are now or this child couldn't concentrate but they're not complaining about their stomachache anymore."
The biggest way to help this program is through monetary donations. The easiest way to donate is online.
To learn more about the Backpack Program, CLICK HERE.
To donate, CLICK HERE and select "Backpack Program" in the Donation Purpose drop-down menu.