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. During the 2013-2014 school year, the program will support 1,100 students in need at 25 different sites in three different counties and we have a waiting list of schools desiring to provide this benefit to their students in need of weekend nutrition. Schools wishing to join the Weekenders Backpack program should contact Jon Barnacastle, see below, for a Weekenders Backpack Application.
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. 102 or wjbarnacastle@feedingAL.org.
By working together we can turn the tables on child hunger so children in need can grow strong, thrive, and achieve their dreams.
More information on children's backpack programs across the Feeding America network:
Produce in Pantries Program
The food bank started the Produce in Pantries Program in 2011 with the goal of distributing fresh produce directly into communities in order to combat obesity and encourage healthy eating. In 2011 alone, with its pilot program in Jefferson County, the food bank distributed over 300,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables through our partner agencies. In 2013 this number more than doubled, with the food bank distributing 647,000 pounds of fresh produce.
Popular produce items have included: potatoes (sweet and russet), apples, onions, peaches, carrots, honeydew, and grapefruits. Agencies interested in ordering produce can reach out to Amanda Storey, Assistant Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Food Bank also partners with our friends at Society of St. Andrew each Saturday to pick up produce gleaned directly from farmers at Pepper Place Saturday Market. Once gleaned, bagged, boxed, and weighed, Wayne loads the boxes on our truck and delivers to two agencies each Saturday afternoon. We create a schedule so that each agency receives at least one Pepper Place delivery a month. If you are an agency interested in this program, please contact Amanda Storey at email@example.com.
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.
On September 5th, the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama launched a hospital-based NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) food pantry for families in partnership with the UAB Regional Level IV NICU. Funded by the Little Giraffe Foundation, this pilot pantry will stock shelf stable, easy to prepare foods and will be overseen by the UAB NICU staff. In addition, the food bank plans to supply the pantry with additional baby-friendly supplies that those families, upon discharge, can take home, such as extra diapers, baby foods, etc.
According to Sandra Milstead, UAB RNICU Family Services Support Nurse, many families of babies in UAB’s care are often not from Birmingham and travel long distances. In addition, a majority of these families are low-income, and being torn away from their normal system of support can be overwhelming.
“When the UAB NICU staff approached us about the concept, we thought to ourselves, what better way to reach a group of families undergoing the most enormous stress they can endure,” said Mary Michael Kelley, Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.
If the pilot program is successful, the food bank hopes to apply for more funding moving forward to pilot more large-scale hospital-based food pantries that can address high need populations including seniors, the disabled, and families facing chronic health issues.