For some Tyler ISD students, backpacks carry more than pencils, paper, and books. In some cases, backpacks also help ensure students will have enough food to eat over the weekend. And that is where the East Texas Food Bank (ETFB) BackPack Program comes in.
“Food insecurities can affect a student’s ability to focus and comprehend information throughout the school day that can ultimately lead to poor attendance, lower grades, and even behavioral issues,” Tyler ISD Executive Director of Student Support Dr. Jennifer Jones said. “Partnerships like the ETFB BackPack Program enable us to help alleviate some of these concerns so that children can focus on learning and reaching their academic goals.”
The BackPack Program provides food for children who participate in free and reduced price meal programs during the week, but are at risk of going hungry on weekends and during the holidays. Each Friday, participating students, discretely identified by their school counselor and with parental permission, receive bags containing nutritious kid-friendly meals consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins.
From August 2019 to March 2020, ETFB distributed 11,893 backpacks to Tyler ISD students before the District closed due to COVID-19. If school had progressed through May, ETFB says they were on pace to distribute more than 15,000 backpacks full of food. Although this school year is a little different with both In-School Learning and Learn@Home options, students in both learning models are able to participate.
Bell Elementary School Counselor Kimberly Collum says over the past two years the amount of participating students at Bell has increased to nearly 100 students. “This year we presented the opportunity to more of our families than we have traditionally identified in the past,” Collum said. “We are grateful to the East Texas Food Bank for helping to meet this need for our students and families.”
The ETFB is currently hosting its 30th Annual Pantry Raid in Tyler ISD schools and throughout the community to raise funds that support its programs, including the BackPack program. To learn more or to donate, go to EastTexasFoodBank.org/Pantry.