Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

With BackPack, Kids Take Home More Than Just Books; the Second Harvest Program Gives Food to Students to Bring to Their Family, Providing Help on Weekends

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

With BackPack, Kids Take Home More Than Just Books; the Second Harvest Program Gives Food to Students to Bring to Their Family, Providing Help on Weekends

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA

News a few weeks ago that Second Harvest North Florida's BackPack Program was expanding to her daughter's after-school program came at a good time for Shannon Dugger.

The backpacks - filled with rice, noodles, canned veggies, cereal and other items - are sent home each Friday with participants in the Girls Inc. after-school program in Arlington.

It's not a lot of food - just enough for a few meals.

But for the Dugger family, which includes six children, the two bags they've received are helping at a time when they've had a tough go of it financially.

"I appreciate it with the economy the way it is," Dugger said.

She said it frees up some money for other groceries - which is especially helpful as she sets the table for her family for Thanksgiving.

Based on a national program, Second Harvest began offering backpacks for 150 students at three after-school sites in December 2008. The group added two more sites in January, and three weeks ago it expanded to its current capacity of 600 students at 10 sites, said Tom Strother, advancement manager with Second Harvest, a local food bank.

Girls Inc. was one of the latest sites offered. The agency offers after-school services to any girls, regardless of their income, said Amy O. DeFullers, vice president of programs.

She said they offered the BackPack program to all of the families, and most with a need wanted to participate.

With private donations, Second Harvest is able to send backpacks home about 36 weeks a year.

The cost per child is about $100, with some of the largest expenses for travel to the sites.

The biggest donors have been the Grainger Foundation and Chartwells Thompson School Dining Services, which each gave $20,000, and Wachovia, which donated $10,000.

The nondescript bags don't go home over the summer or during holidays. But on Fridays like the ones before Thanksgiving, providers might stuff a few more items in the bag. …

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