The Back Pack Program

Teachers and school nurses across the state are finding that in too many instances, Monday morning comes and they are forced to compete against hunger for the attention of their students. More than 80,000 Maine children qualify for free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program. These meals are the fuel they need to get them through the week. What happens to these children when they go home over the weekend?

In 2010, the Junior League of Portland, Maine began the BackPack Program as a pilot in Maine, working in partnership with the Good Shepherd Food Bank to ensure its success. By 2014, over 1,000 children are benefiting from the program.

The BackPack Program is designed to provide children who are suffering the effects of chronic hunger with nutritious, easy-to-prepare food to eat during weekends and school vacations when those crucial school meals are unavailable. For just $250 a year per student, we are able to provide at least one source of grain, fruit, vegetable, and protein through a variety of staple meal items, breakfast foods, and healthy snacks in discreet, resealable bags.

One measurement of success? School attendance has increased on Fridays when BackPacks are distributed.  If you are interested in learning more, please take a moment to check out the Tool Kits the Junior League of Portland and Good Shepherd Food Bank created. The BackPack Program Tool Kits are intended to serve as a guide for any organization who wishes to improve, expand, or begin the BackPack Program in their local community.