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The Food for Kids Backpacks Program
Lift Urban Portland expanded its Emergency Food Box program to include the Food for Kids Backpacks program in 2009. It delivers backpacks of food to children living in homeless shelters and transitional housing. Or, they may just need extra food to get through the weekend.
Those children frequently depend on school meals, which are available only on school days. After receiving backpacks, they arrive at school Mondays nourished and ready to learn, maintaining the integrity of the learning environment for all. This is a partnership with Friendly House and the Project Return after school program. In 2012, generous donors also provided food for the children during spring break.
How It Started
When we learned about a weekend backpack program in Tillamook County, we decided to replicate that model locally at Chapman Elementary School, where 25% of kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunches during the school week.
All elementary school children in Portland's downtown homeless shelters and transitional housing fall into Chapman's attendance area. While the school provides after-school care, snacks, and tutoring for these kids during the week, our Backpacks program provides a safety net to ensure that children receive nutrition over the weekend.
How It Works
Our Emergency Food Box program provides food for neighbors in need in Northwest and inner downtown Portland. The food is inventoried at our warehouse and boxes are distributed via our pantry. Supplies for the Backpacks program comes from this inventory. We supplement our warehouse with discounted or free staples from the Oregon Food Bank
Lift Urban Portland volunteers come to our warehouse each week, pack the backpacks with food, and deliver them to Friendly House before kids leave for the weekend. Additionally, the school principal notifies us of other children in need of a food backpack, even if these kids do not live in shelters. The kids return the backpacks on Mondays and a volunteer returns them to the warehouse to repeat the cycle!
Typical Backpacks Foods
- Pudding Cups
- Cup of noodles
- Fruit cups
- Fruit snacks (low/no sugar)
- Boxes of 100% fruit juice
- Protein/granola bars
- Tuna fish, canned
- Chicken, canned
- Pop Tarts (unfrosted)
- Dried fruit, raisin
- Shelf-stable milk or soy milk
- Cereal, non-sugar
- Cans of soup, stew, and chili
- Snack Packs' cheese & crackers
- Trail mix