Blessings in a Backpack Keeps Inner City Kids Fed on Weekends

In a small room hidden in the basement of Florence Nightingale Elementary, Susan Fox prepares dozens of backpacks for some of Mt. Pleasant community's neediest children. Each Thursday, Fox arrives at  8:30 AM and begins the process of packing fruit, pasta, noodles, bread and other basics in small backpacks for the children at Nightingale and Mt. Pleasant school.

Fox says the food needs to be easy to prepare, shelf-stable, kid friendly and as nutritious as possible. All the backpacks need to be ready for their Friday pick up at the end of the school day and the beginning of the weekend.

Fox started the Vancouver branch of Blessings in a Backpack Canada which runs similarly to the popular US program Blessings in a Backpack in January 2011. At the time, she committed $5,000 per year to pay for all the food out of her own pocket and supported two schools and 52 students. Since then, the program has grown to four schools and 116 kids. A local grocer sells Fox the food at cost to support her drive. Next September, Fox aims to expand again servicing an additional 194 students.

She says the food is critical for many students who sometimes have little to eat during the weekend. She keeps the food staples consistent so the students always know they can depend on opening their backpack and having a meal.

"It's like a security blanket for the kids," Fox said.

Florence Nightingale Principal Jenny Chin Petersen says the Blessings in a Backpack program has made a significant difference in the lives of many of her students.  "Lots of kids go home and have nothing to eat when they run out of food.  With this program, some of our students are arriving much happier and ready to learn."

To read the Vancouver Sun story about Susan Fox and Blessings in a Backpack, click here.

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