“It helps when I don’t have enough money to purchase the basics. Knowing we have food for the weekend is a blessing.”

BackPack Program parent

What is the BackPack Program?

The mission of the BackPack Program is to help alleviate childhood hunger in America by providing children at risk of food insecurity with nutritious and easy to prepare foods when free and reduced school lunch is unavailable, over the weekends and during school breaks.

The BackPack Program is a national program that the Cooperstown Food Pantry participates in via the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and Feeding America. A backpack full of kid-friendly, shelf stable, easily prepared food is discreetly distributed on Friday afternoons to children who participate in the program. Teachers report that students who receive backpacks show increased attention and ability to focus during the school day.

Since its inception in 2007 at our Regional Food Bank, the BackPack Program has expanded to over 220 schools in 20 counties. Over 186,000 bags were distributed during the 2017-2018 school year, which is the equivalent of 1.1 million meals.

“My participating student has been growing academically for sure. I get a strong sense that he feels we are looking out for him. Thank you for allowing our school to participate in this program!”

A teacher who’s student participates in the BackPack program

The Cooperstown BackPack Program

The BackPack Program was introduced to the Cooperstown Central Schools in 2010. During the 2018-2019 school year, the Cooperstown BackPack Program distributed over 1,151 backpacks containing over 11,855 pounds of food, or the equivalent of 8,053 meals! We are one of several BackPack programs in Otsego County.

The majority of programs are school-based programs who send volunteers to pick up weekly distributions from a Regional Food Bank. Due to our distance from the Regional Food Bank, we receive monthly distributions as part of our regular Pantry deliveries. The Cooperstown Central School guidance staff determine which students are in need, and students are enrolled confidentially.

On Thursday afternoons, Pantry volunteers review and prep the menu. Members of the Cooperstown High School Leo Club collect the empty backpacks, transport them to the Pantry, pack them and return them to both the elementary and middle/high schools. Students pick up their backpacks from a designated area on their way home each Friday afternoon.

The average backpack weighs approximately 10 pounds, and contains safely packaged food items that are easily transported home. The Cooperstown Food Pantry extends the BackPack Program into the summer months, providing participating children with the option of a monthly box. The box contains meals that would equivalate to the amount of food they would receive on weekends throughout the school year.