At the end of September, Food for Others launched a new program to provide weekend food to needy children in Northern Virginia – the Power Pack Program (P3). These are children who get free or reduced-price meals on school days, but who face weekends of little food, or of food with empty calories.
Through P3, Food for Others matches businesses or volunteers with selected elementary schools. Each business or volunteer group picks up food at Food for Others and distributes it weekly to their "partner" school. Food for Others provides the food and the businesses or volunteers package these items into individual bags – light enough for a child to carry but large enough to hold nutritious items to cover every weekend meal. These efforts will provide needy children with sacks full of kid-friendly but healthy food every Friday so they have food to eat over the weekends when there are no school-provided meals to sustain them.
A recent study by Feeding America shows that nearly 70,000 people in Fairfax County are "food insecure," meaning that they do not know where their next meal is coming from. Fairfax County Public Schools provided free or reduced-price meals to approximately 40,000 children – 24 percent of the school population – in 2010-2011, and the school system projects providing meals to 45,000 children in this 2011-2012 school year.
These children go home to their low-income families on the weekends and too often face uncertainty as to where their food for the weekend will come from. Educators and child-health experts know that when children have access to regular healthy meals, they are healthier, perform better in school, and have fewer behavioral issues. And of course the effects of persistent hunger follow them for the rest of their lives. Through Food for Others’ P3 partnerships, the Northern Virginia community is working together to ensure that our children are able to eat regular healthy meals.
Food for Others expects P3 to grow, and is looking for more businesses and other organizations willing to partner with a nearby school. Of course, donations of food for the program and funds for food purchases are needed too. Potential partners or donors should contact Nikki Clifford at 703-207-9173 about becoming a part of this effort, or with any questions about the program. Or visit the Food for Others website at www.foodforothers.org.