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Starbuck school offers ‘Back Pack’ program for needy children


No Starbuck Elementary School student will go hungry this weekend.

Starbuck is the first school to take advantage of Northern New York Rural Health Care Alliance’s Weekend Back Pack program.

Each Friday morning, select students in the city school pick up backpacks overflowing with healthful, nonperishable meals donated by local businesses. Principal Mark L. Taylor said the school has a high number of students eligible for a free or reduced lunch, but this is not a factor that makes students eligible to take home a backpack of food.

“The only factor is just ‘Do you want to take part in the program?’” Mr. Taylor said. “We didn’t want people to go on the defensive. It’s been received very well so far.”

The South Jefferson Central School District has utilized a similar program since 2010 through the Watertown Evening Rotary Club.

Patricia M. Bishop, executive director of the Health Care Alliance, was unavailable to comment. However, a program flier noted food donations “alleviate the stress of parents over additional costs for food over the weekend” and assist in healthier eating.

It encouraged donations to be child-friendly, nonperishable and easy to prepare.

Mr. Taylor said Ms. Bishop approached him about the extra grant money she had for the program while they were at a meeting. The program has been running for only three weeks, but more than 115 students have signed up so far.

“She packs them. She fills them,” Mr. Taylor said. “The first week, these backpacks were so heavy that some of the smaller kids were struggling with them.”

Since then, the organization has been giving less food to students so the backpacks are not a burden to take home. Less food does not mean the students are less thankful, however. Mr. Taylor said he has heard several students discussing the dinners they have had after taking home a backpack.

“Several of the kids noted they had spaghetti over the weekend and ‘it was awesome,’” Mr. Taylor said.

He said the parents he has spoken with have been very appreciative as well.

“In these economic times, who can’t use a little extra?” he said.

For more information about the program or where to donate goods, contact the Healthcare Alliance at 755-2500.

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