Red Deer Salvation Army Provides Unique Weekend Food Program For Kids

by Alberta

The Salvation Army Red Deer Community Church and Family Services was honoured with a Friends of Education Award this past November by the Alberta Teacher’s Association and the Regional School Board district in Red Deer, in recognition of their School Weekend Backpack Feeding Program.

The unique program supplies school-age children with a backpack of food for easy-to-prepare meals for the weekend, under consultation of a nutritionist. On Fridays, the Family Resource team hands out the backpacks, which the students return on Monday to be filled again for the next weekend. Beginning with 21 children at one school in 2014, the program has grown to include 176 children from 15 schools with still more requests to add students to the program.

Children receiving proper nutrition on weekdays through feeding programs in their schools often do not have enough to eat on the weekends. This can put them at risk for nutritional deficiencies that may lead to poor academic performance in school. The feedback from teachers, parents, and students has been overwhelmingly positive, and the students are excited to receive their backpacks every Friday. Teachers have also seen an improvement in their students, and parents are grateful for the additional assistance.

“This program is about partnering with the schools and providing kids the opportunities to succeed,” says Deanna Scott, Family Services Coordinator. “It allows children to focus on school, and gives struggling families one less thing to worry about.”

The backpack program is a high-demand, community resource, and costs $15 per weekend, per child, to supply 6 meals. The program continues for 29 weekends during the school year at a total cost of $75,000. Anyone wishing to donate to this program, or is interested in becoming a sponsor, please call The Salvation Army in Red Deer at 403-346-2251.