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 Community 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.

Weekenders Backpack Program

Our first step to address childhood hunger was 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 18 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, cereal, granola bars), two entrees (Ravioli, Beefaroni, Spaghetti), two snacks (sunflower seeds, crackers, pretzels), a fruit (applesauce cup or fruit cup), and milk and juice. The majority of school partners report seeing improved energy level and concentration, increased classroom participation, improved academic performance, positive behavioral gains, and improved overall health in participating children and youth.

Family Market

While surveying children in our Backpack Program, we found that 94% of these kids were sharing their food with siblings or others in the household. We knew we had to do more, and so the Family Market Program was launched. This school pantry model provides food for the family as a whole, reaching all the children in the home, not just those at a Backpack Program school. We work with teachers, counselors, and school administrators to facilitate these Family Market distributions once per month at each of our partner schools. We are able to not only provide shelf stable groceries, but fresh produce as well! A healthy happy family makes for healthy happy students!

Our Family Market Program is among our fastest-growing programs. Being less than 3 years old, the program already serves 21 schools in 5 counties. In 2017, we distributed more than 88 tons of wholesome foods—the equivalent of 148,323 meals (35% of which being fresh fruits and vegetables)—to at least 3,587 people, including 1,963 children!

If your school or charitable organization would like additional information about starting a child hunger program, please contact Jon Barnacastle, Programs Coordinator, at wjbarnacastle@feedingal.org.

This program has had a two-fold effect on the both the parents and families and us as administrators. It has created a different bond between families, now we’re not just a school here, we’re here to help. We want to be able to help our families more and this has been a critical element in that. The fact that we’re able to provide this type of support outside of jut the holidays, that it’s year-round and that the food families are getting is of great quality helps us create a new bonds. This program has been a new avenue to help our families be successful.
It has been a great tool to create and solidify relationships between those in need and the school.  It provides a real, substantial, in-hand way for the schools to create relationships. It has been a catalyst for a healthier community, it has given children and families food in their bellies and built relationships. It has been a tremendous tool for impact.
We had a family recently, where the mother had been in a stable relationship for a decade or so and suddenly became the single parent and sole earner in the household due to a domestic violence issue. She came to the school and told us that she’d never had to ask for help in this way before and had no idea where to look or where to start. We were able to enroll her in the Weekenders Family Market program immediately and provide her and her kids with food and produce as they navigate this difficult time. We are glad this program will be able to help them in this time.

Summer Meals

During the summer, over 100,000 children in Central Alabama lose access to free and reduced-price school meals. The Food Bank’s Summer Meals Program provides healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to kids throughout the months of June and July, ensuring they have year-round access to the nutritious foods they need for strong bodies and curious minds. We partner with local YMCA’s, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other kids’ programs to provide meals where children are congregating in the summer. Together, we’re helping to prevent summer learning loss—and making sure kids can focus on just being kids this summer! We are also working with Alabama farmers to include fresh, locally-grown produce such as watermelon, blackberries, and sweet potatoes in the Summer Meals menu. For some kids, this was their first time trying a fresh blackberry, and they LOVED it!

Does your organization run a summer program for children? Looking to stretch your Summer Kids Program dollars? How does “FREE” sound?
If you’re a Summer Hero on a budget, there’s still time for your organization to sign up for FREE breakfast, lunch, and/or afternoon snack for children served through your summer program!
Summer Meals are:
• Free of charge to participating children
• Free of charge to your organization
• Nutritious, exceeding or meeting Federal nutrition standards
• Delivered directly to your site 5 days a week all summer long
• Ready to serve (no prep needed!)