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Syracuse school kids get extra meals to bring home on weekends

Tom Magnarelli
Samples of items from the Blessings in a Backpack program.

To reduce childhood hunger, some elementary school students in the Syracuse City School District are getting extra food to take home with them on weekends. Multiple community partners are assisting the district through a national donation program.

Syracuse School District Director of Food and Nutrition Rachel Murphy said there is a need for food outside of school hours among some of the poorest kids.

“There’s even been talk about, children hoarding food in lockers in some cases where they have food insecurity," Murphy said. "They’re getting food from the cafeteria during meal times and they save it for when they go home.”

Last year, the Bellevue United Methodist Church wanted to help fill the hunger gap and came up with a plan to implement the Blessings in a Backpack program in the district. Now on Fridays, participating students receive two entrees, two breakfasts and snacks to give them extra nourishment and tide them over for next week.

“Individual macaroni and cheese bowls, cans of soup, cereal bowls, granola bars,” Murphy said. "Those are the kind of items that you're going to see in the different backpacks. "

It costs $100 to sponsor a child for one year. Murphy said school social workers talk to parents to determine the students who would benefit the most.

“It’s important to fuel the children up, give them nourishment over the weekend in very food insecure and hunger situations that are occurring and that we know of in existing home environments for the children," Murphy said. "We want to feed the children.”

The program is expanding this year and will reach 350 students. Centro is another community partner and is hosting a kickoff event on Friday at Dr. King Elementary to distribute the first weekend meals of the year to students.