Friday Packs Program
The program, piloted in 2004 at Sunset Lake Elementary School in Vicksburg, Michigan, provides backpacks of food each Friday to children at risk of hunger over the weekends. Children who suffer from hunger can experience serious health problems, including impaired cognitive development, stunted physical growth, physical weakness, and anemia. Lack of food can also profoundly affect childrens' academic performance. Friday packs have been so effective in meeting this need that we are now in all five schools in the Vicksburg District. We have consulted with several other school districts (Kalamazoo, Mattawan, Schoolcraft) and assisted them in creating their own programs. In addition, concerned citizens in several other school districts (Parchment, Colon, Centreville) purchase packs from GH for their students. As other schools express interest, we will expand as resources allow.
What began as an operation which functioned from a closet-sized room at Sunset Lake Elementary has now expanded to a program which serves over 300 Vicksburg children (and 75 children in surrounding communities where concerned citizens purchased Friday Packs) received weekly. Hundreds of community volunteers are involved. The grassroots support by the community of Vicksburg and the Greater Kalamazoo area enabled us to win a 2006 Star Award for Community Service as well as the American Humanics Student Association of Western Michigan University award for the Best Emerging Non-Profit Organization of 2006.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Generous Hands, Inc. is able to obtain nutritious, low-cost food from local food banks. Volunteers staff our warehouse at 113 South Kalamazoo Avenue, Vicksburg, Michigan. Each week, a variety of kid-friendly foods are placed in plastic grocery sacks which are then picked up by each school's Generous Hands site coordinator to be placed in children's lockers. Children are confidentially recommended by the staff at their school. A parent information packet is sent home, including a permission slip.
Children receive their packs each Friday afternoon. Some families have chosen to pick up their packs at the GH warehouse each week. During the summer, families are offered the opportunity to continue receiving Friday Packs each week, but they must all be picked up at our warehouse.
Additional benefits of the Friday Pack Program
Each family in the program is offered a weekly voucher redeemable at the Vicksburg Family Fare Store that entitles them to milk, bread, eggs, fruits or vegetables up to a total of $7 per week. (This is the most expensive part of the Friday Pack program, but it provides a predictable source of protein for these growing children.)
Hygiene packs, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant (for the older students) are distributed several times during the school year to children who receive Friday Packs.
Throughout the summer, each family in the program receives vouchers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and cheese at the Vicksburg Farmer's Market.
Protein items--canned meat, peanut butter, Easy Mac
Breakfast foods--cereal, oatmeal, cereal bars
Fruit cups and/or fresh fruits/vegetables
Kid-friendly snacks--granola bars, raisins, pretzels, popcorn, peanuts