Southfield Public Schools students to benefit from Blessings in a Backpack program

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published September 25, 2019

 Backpacks filled with food wait to be assigned to children last year as part of the Blessings in a Backpack program.

Backpacks filled with food wait to be assigned to children last year as part of the Blessings in a Backpack program.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

 Volunteer Lucy Kulpa packs the backpacks last year in Ferndale.

Volunteer Lucy Kulpa packs the backpacks last year in Ferndale.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

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SOUTHFIELD — When you’re hungry, you can’t learn.

Starting in October, students at two Southfield Public Schools will no longer have to worry about their next meal, thanks to the Blessings in a Backpack program.

The program, launched in September at the district, will provide students at Vandenberg Elementary School and Stevenson Elementary School with a backpack filled with several pounds of food for over the weekend.

According to John Dignan, the director of post-secondary options and community partnerships at the district, the students are identified through the federal free and reduced-fee lunch program.

Currently, there are 3,016 children in the school district who are on the free and reduced-fee program, according to officials at Blessings in a Backpack.

Dignan said that although some students receive free or reduced-fee meals at school, their families may be “food insecure,” and they may not have enough food to last them through the weekend.

Going hungry can have a major effect on the way students learn, Dignan said.

“We always talk about student achievement in schools, but how can they learn if they’re hungry?” he said.

Dignan said volunteers pack the food, which usually consists of nonperishable items from Meijer. Students are then discreetly given the backpacks on Friday and return them on Monday.

“You want to protect and keep the students anonymous, and you don’t want to embarrass them by the manner in which you get them the backpack for the weekend,” Dignan said. “I don’t want any kid to feel embarrassed or have that embarrassment turn away a kid that could benefit from the program.”

While the district has already raised enough funds to feed 40 children throughout the weekend, it recently teamed up with Big Boy to make its dollars go a little further.

Big Boy recently opened up a new fast-casual prototype at 26400 Telegraph Road that features a new, “chef-inspired” take on salads, soups and sandwiches, along with featuring classic menu items.

Matt Friedman, a representative for Big Boy, said that proceeds from every milkshake sold in September at the franchise’s new location will benefit the Blessings in a Backpack program.

“We hope it’s going to mean an easier start to the school year and a more successful semester in school for the kids, and that their families don’t have to worry as much,” Friedman said. “The research is really clear on this: When kids have the nutrition they need, they do better in school. Better schools make for better communities.”

Proceeds from the milkshakes will be donated through Sept. 30, officials said.

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