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Weekend Back Sacks
"These are our future students we're serving. Without proper nutrition, they can't learn and perform well in class. Providing them with this staple is important." - Ashley Chamness, Education Angels
Fighting Childhood Hunger
How can a child focus on solving a math problem or memorizing a new word when she or he is trying to ignore the persistent pangs of hunger?
Across the country, teachers and school nurses have found that in some instances, Monday morning comes and they are forced to compete against hunger for the attention of their students. More than 18 million children qualify for free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program, the fuel that they need to get them through the week (via Feeding America). Over 70 percent of students in the Athens City School System and 62 percent of students in the McMinn County School System receive free or reduced lunch.
What happens to these children when they go home over the weekend? Many students who are on these free and reduced lunch lists go home every weekend and are not able to eat until the beginning of the next school week. Childhood hunger impacts one’s ability to cognitively process new information, stay attentive during class, and is a significant predictor of chronic illness (Weinreb et al., 2002). Studies show that students who go hungry are not able to focus as much on school work, and when students are not able to focus on school, then they do not perform well in the classroom. When these students reach high school, it's tempting to drop out of school, in order to help support their families. This continues the cycle of poverty on to the next generation. The Back Sacks Program offers assistance to break this cycle and keep students in school.
The TWC Back Sacks Program began on September 26, 2013, with the mission to provide weekend backpack meals to local high school students who might not otherwise have access to food over weekends and during holidays. This program follows the example set by the Nourish One Child program at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church, which provides weekend backpack meals to students throughout the Athens City School System. However, no organization in our area has focused on students at the high school level. The Back Sacks Program at Tennessee Wesleyan College focuses on those students that are more susceptible to drop out of school to get a job to help support their families, instead of graduating high school, possibly attending college, and generally obtain better paying jobs.
The Back Sacks Program
The Education Angels, a TWC student organization for education majors, and the Speak Up Club partner to pack 25 food bags each Thursday, which are then delivered to guidance counselors at McMinn County High School to distribute to students in need. These bags typically include a canned protein, vegetable, and fruit, a grain, a juice or breakfast drink, and a few snacks.
There is significantly more need that we are hoping to be able to address. Our ultimate goal is to provide food bags to the many students who are in desperate need of assistance. In the future, the Back Sacks program also hopes to serve the all students in need at the other local high school, Central High School of McMinn County.
To learn more about the Back Sacks Program or find ways to support this important work, visit the Get Involved page.
Many thanks to the many supporters and partners of the Backs Sacks Program!