Students given holiday meals

About 140 students at Alice Boucher Elementary left school for the holiday break Friday with backpacks filled with fruit cups and easy-to-fix meals as part of the Second Harvest Food Bank program.

The Backpack Program offered by Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana helps provide nutritious meals and snacks for students at risk of hunger while they’re away from the meals provided at school, said Amos Batiste, development coordinator of the food bank’s Acadiana operations.

Every Friday and on the last school day before a long holiday break, students receive a backpack filled with easy-to-open and easy-to-prepare meals and snacks, Batiste said.

In the Acadiana region, the program serves about 140 students at Alice Boucher Elementary and is funded by a grant from the Junior League of Lafayette, Batiste said.

The backpacks are discretely distributed to the students by the school’s health and wellness team members, Boucher Principal Laniakia Johnson said in an email last week.

Students are excited to get their backpacks, she said.

The program has had positive effects on not only students but also on their caretakers, who have expressed gratitude for the extra help given to their young ones, she said.

“I believe it takes a portion of the burdens away from parents to know that their children will have food to eat each week,” Johnson said.

The food bank provides services in the New Orleans and Acadiana regions and its Backpack Program serves more than 1,500 children at 19 schools, according to its website.

Boucher is the only school in the Acadiana service region with the program, although Batiste said efforts are under way for expansion. The food bank’s Acadiana outreach includes areas between Morgan City and Lake Charles, he said.

“One in five children in south Louisiana is at risk of hunger. That’s why this program is very important,” Batiste said.