Food Bank Programs
No parent wants their child to go hungry, yet we know that many families across central Alabama lack the resources to provide adequate nutrition for their children. Today, more than 1 in 4 children lack sufficient nutrition food to grow, thrive and achieve. (Source: Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap study)
At the Food Bank of Central Alabama we're bringing together people with a passion to help - schools, Agency partners, funding partners, volunteers, and people like you; people who believe that no one should go hungry, certainly not a child. The core of our fight against childhood hunger is our Weekenders Backpack Program. This program provides children with easy-open, nutritious food to take home over weekends and holidays, when they otherwise might not have food available. The backpacks are assembled by volunteers and delivered to partner schools each week, where they are discretely distributed on Fridays to students in need to take home for the weekend or holiday. A typical backpack contains two breakfast items (instant oatmeal, Pop-tarts, granola bars), two entrees (Ravioli, Beefaroni, Spaghetti), two snacks (pudding cups, cheese crackers, pretzels), and a fruit (applesauce cup or fruit tube). Teachers and schools have reported improvements in test scores, positive behavioral gains, decrease in number of unexcused absences and an increased recognition of potential career paths in children receiving these backpacks.
The Food Bank's Weekenders Backpack program was initiated in 2007 when we provided backpacks to 70 children in one school. The program expanded the quality and scope of its services dramatically beginning in school year 2014-2015, converting all 36 of its School Partner Sites from bimonthly to weekly distribution cycles, ensuring that all 1,200 participating children could rely on the Weekenders Program every single week of the school year. By year’s end this past May, the Weekenders Program had served more than 108,000 meals!
But the Weekenders Program did not stop with the end of the school year. In the summer 2015, the Food Bank celebrated its second year operating the Weekenders Backpack Program throughout the summer break, ensuring that children can continue receiving nutritious, easy-to-prepare weekend meals during a time of heightened vulnerability for students who rely on school meals during the rest of the year. Thanks to Wells Fargo’s generous financial support and Project Hopewell’s continued partnership, the Weekenders Backpack Program will serve more than 9,000 weekend meals in Summer 2015, twice as many as in the previous summer!
[PHOTO RIGHT: CFBCA's Jon Barnacastle with staff members from Project Hopewell and Wells Fargo]
If you would like to volunteer with this program, please see the Volunteers page of this website to complete a Volunteer application and for available volunteer opportunities. To become a funding partner or for any additional information on this program, please contact our Programs Assistant, Jon Barnacastle at 205-942-8911,ext. 116 or wjbarnacastle@feedingAL.org.
In an effort to bring more pounds into underserved counties, the Mobile Pantry Program was established at the beginning of 2013. A $5000 grant from Honda was secured in April to fund Mobile Pantries in Talladega and St. Clair Counties. Through this program, the Food Bank is able to take a hands on approach in ensuring that families have access to food resources that they otherwise may not have. Volunteers pack the boxes with a variety of food items that are taken out with each Mobile Pantry, including canned vegetables and fruits, fresh meats, fresh produce, and household items.
In 2013, the food bank launched a hospital-based NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) food pantry serving mothers and family members with children enduring long hospital stays in the NICU. We are currently partnering with two hospitals, UAB Hospital and Coosa Valley in Talladega County. These pantries are stocked with specific items—like tuna salad, peanut butter, high-protein, easy-to-prepare meals, pretzels, nuts and protein bars —to benefit breast-feeding mothers. Providing an on-site pantry provides an innovative platform to increase food access for those in need and it also enables mothers to spend more time with their infants during a critical time of mother-child bonding. The idea to begin a hospital pantry was created after NICU nurses noticed some mothers never left the ward to eat (or couldn’t afford the hospital meals) and many were afraid to leave their children or ask for help. Patients are referred to the pantry by medical professionals and onsite social workers who recognize symptoms of food insecurity. As of July 2015, the Hospital Pantry Program has served almost 5,000 meals to food insecure individuals and families.