Got Your Backpack is a new Rockwood School District program that provides nutritious food to students in need. Organizers said it may be a welcome lifeline to students, particularly those in the district who are on free or reduced lunch programs.
District spokespeople indicate homelessness touches nearly every school in the district. In fact, current numbers provided by Rockwood officials show 135 Rockwood students are homeless, with 32 percent of students residing in the county and 68 percent residing in St. Louis.
“For students living in poverty, the inability to obtain food is a major concern as it affects their ability to be successful in the classroom,” stated Terry Harris, coordinator of Rockwood’s educational equity and diversity department, in an announcement about the new program.
“We know it’s particularly hard to receive food during the weekends, so we hope to minimize this challenge with the support of this program.”
Each Friday, participating students receive a backpack filled with healthy food items that are easy to open, simple to prepare and can accommodate a variety of home circumstances. Donations needed include bread, oatmeal, peanut butter, jelly, tuna, macaroni and cheese, pasta and spaghetti sauce, fresh fruit and applesauce.
Angie Santoni, Got Your Back Pack coordinator at Pond Elementary School in Wildwood, distributed a flier to Pond families that indicated the average cost to fill a backpack would be $20 to $25.
Santoni stated Pond PTO leaders hope to have enough Pond families sign up that the project can be rotated for families to donate on a bi-weekly, monthly or bi-monthly basis.
Backpack donations can be dropped off at any Rockwood School District school, or to Harris at 111 East North St. in Eureka. Additionally, Dierbergs at the Wildwood Town Center is supporting this endeavor. A list of items needed is posted at the front of the store.
Program organizers indicate that any items purchase for Got Your Backpack can be left at Dierbergs, and school volunteers will pick them up and take them to students in need.
School officials said the program exists across the United States because of growing economic problems.