DELRAY BEACH – Third graders at Village Academy are taking home more than homework on Fridays.
All 67 students have been given a backpack with nutritious food for the weekend as part of a program called “Blessings in a Backpack”.
“By taking this meal home, they won’t be as hungry, worried and anxious about food for the weekend,” said Guarn Sims, principal of Village Academy. “Hopefully, now that the students are eating well over the weekends, we will see a difference in their readiness to learn on Mondays.”
Backpack food includes easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods, like granola bars, juice boxes, mac and cheese, and oatmeal.
The program is coordinated by Delray Beach-based Sound Tree Entertainment and is sponsored in part by Disney teen-star Jake Short, who visited the school last year. The “Blessings in a Backpack” is also funded by a $24,000 in-kind food donation from a local resident.
Volunteers from the community pack the backpacks on Fridays for the teachers who give them to the students.
Organizers are searching for a grocery partner to buy the food at a reduced price.
And, with 98 percent of their students on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program, the backpack program is definitely needed at the school.
This is a life-changing program,” Sims said. “For some of the students, this is the first time they’ve ever had a real backpack before, let alone one with food so desperately needed.”