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How the BackPack Program Supports Generations

How the BackPack Program Supports Generations

Mayo Elementary School in Compton has run the BackPack Program for over 20 years, benefitting low-income families in need of food assistance

What is one of the worst nightmares for any parent? For many, being unable to provide for their children is one of the worst feelings. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 children in Los Angeles County don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Thousands of children go to school on Monday morning with rumbling, empty stomachs, anxiously waiting for breakfast time at school, focusing on the clock rather than what is being taught.

Fortunately, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank offers its BackPack Program, a program designed to alleviate hunger for children who rely on school meals during the week but need food assistance over the weekend.

One of the participating schools is Mayo Elementary in Compton. For over 20 years, the school has partnered with the Food Bank in order to provide boxes of food to those families in need, and so far, thousands of families have benefited from this program over the years.

The Importance of Healthy Food Options

Patricia Hernandez is one of the parents that benefit from the BackPack Program at Mayo Elementary. Hernandez has older children that also attended the school and participated in the program. The food box received has always been welcomed by the Hernandez family, but now more than ever, they need it most.

One of Hernandez’s four children was diagnosed with cancer as a young child. After complications, Hernandez’s daughter lost mobility and is now in a wheelchair. Hernandez now has to take her daughter to therapy, therefore, she can’t take on a full-time job. Additionally, Hernandez’s daughter is also on a restrictive diet, with doctors recommending she eat certain foods, or replace certain ingredients with other items that may be financially out of reach for Hernandez.

The family’s limited budget, and the inflation of everyday essentials, put the health of Hernandez’s daughter at risk. Thankfully, the BackPack Program has helped the family offset some costs, and helped give healthy meals to the entire Hernandez family.

“The doctor suggested my daughter eat quinoa instead of rice, but quinoa is so expensive!” Hernandez said. “He gave me something to think about.”

Inflation Impacts Low-Income Families

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for food at home moved up 11.7% since last year, leaving thousands of low-income families without any other option than to make sacrifices and cuts wherever possible.

Estela Avila is a mom of two young children that attend Mayo Elementary. Like many others, she participates in the BackPack Program in order to help make ends meet for her family of five. 

Her children, in fourth and fifth grade, know that every Friday, they can count on a new box of food, and excitedly look forward to discovering what items they received, specifically the cereals that they look forward to in the mornings, or in the evenings. Regardless, Avila says her children are happy with everything they receive. 

But for Avila and her husband, the box of food brings relief and comfort that they will be able to cover more expenses, as well as keep their kids healthy and fed. 

“Whenever we receive a box, we take a look at the box and sum up what we would’ve spent on the items [at the grocery store,]” Avila said. “What we come up with, we pay any bill that we weren’t able to pay, and if we have any money left over, we put it away and use it when we need it.”

Food is Necessary for All

If times are tough for families with multiple incomes, life can be tougher for single mothers like Flora Cruz.

A mother of six, with two young children and one teenager, Cruz has taken on multiple jobs in order to provide for her kids. Previously a volunteer at Mayo Elementary when her now 27-year-old son was a student, Cruz has participated in the BackPack Program for over 20 years, so the benefits are clear.

“Us, moms, sometimes have to push our kids to eat because sometimes they don’t want to eat,” Cruz said. “Food is very necessary so they can be well-fed and can do well in school.”

Programs like the BackPack Program could not operate without the support of the community. If you are in a position to do so, please consider donating to the Food Bank.

Join the fight against hunger!

The BackPack Program could not be possible without the support and generosity of the community. Without your support, many children may go hungry. If you are in a position to do so, consider donating to the Food Bank and supporting programs like the BackPack Program. Just $15 covers the cost of one backpack.

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