Campbell kids first to get weekend food

CAMPBELL — Seventy-five pupils at Campbell Elementary School are the first in the area to benefit from Second Harvest Food Bank’s BackPack national weekend food program.

Under the program, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley will send backpacks containing 7 to 9 pounds of food home with third- and fourth-grade pupils one Friday a month, beginning Feb. 23, said Michael Iberis, executive director of the local Second Harvest.

The backpacks will contain beverages such as milk and juice, cereals, fruit cups, energy bars, and other items such as beef stew, chili and beans and macaroni and cheese, said Rebecca Martinez, development director for Second Harvest.

“We don’t want any child in our school going home hungry over the weekend,” said Dr. Robert Walls, elementary school principal, when asked why the school got involved in the program.

“This is a wonderful first step toward providing all of our children enough food to help them grow and thrive,” he said.

Walls said 87 percent of the pupils in Campbell schools are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and they are taken care of during the week with breakfast and lunch at school. With this program they will be taken care of on the weekends too, he said.

“We know children can’t concentrate when they are hungry. So when they are hungry at home on the weekend, how are they going to do their homework?” Walls said.

Iberis said there are some 24,000 kids in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, the area that Second Harvest of Mahoning Valley services, whose families are at or below the federal poverty level. That means some of them are coming to school hungry, he said.

The BackPack program for Campbell Elementary is a collaborative effort involving several community organizations. For instance, an $11,000 grant for the program was provided by the Kennedy Family Foundation of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley; and Volunteer Services Agency is providing volunteers to help pack the backpacks.

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