Pawtucket Backpackers: Hunger problem worsening

Pawtucket Backpackers: Hunger problem worsening

Community can help with non-perishable food items

PAWTUCKET - With an average poverty level in Pawtucket schools of 75 percent the first week of school, city children and families are going hungry more often, say organizers of the "Pawtucket Backpackers" program. That number was expected to increase as more students registered for classes.

Pawtucket Backpackers volunteers will provide approximately 100 to 130 needy elementary students with snacks and non-perishable food supplements to help address hunger during the weekend and over school vacations during the 2013-2014 school year. The donations will allow students "to arrive at school fortified and ready to learn," according to organizers.

For the week of Sept. 22-27, the Pawtucket Backpackers are asking for the community's help in stocking the shelves at Jenks Junior High School to give students backpacks full of food from October of this year through May of 2014.

For September's Hunger Action Month, volunteers are looking for macaroni and cheese, pasta, pasta sauces, soups (canned or dehydrated packages), granola bars, applesauce, fruit cups, single serve cracker packs, canned tuna and/or chicken, chili, Vienna sausages (a favorite of local children), and/or any other non-perishable food item to help local families.

Non-perishable, child-friendly foods can be dropped off at:

* Jenks/JMW School for the Performing and Visual Arts, 350 Division St., across from McCoy Stadium;

* Curtis Elementary School, 582 Benefit St. (entrance on Bloodgood St.);

* Slater Park Administration Office, across from the tennis courts;

* And the main foyer at Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Ave.

Organizers of the Pawtucket Backpackers estimate that it costs about $200 per student to provide weekend and vacation supplements during the school year. With about 6,700 "limited-income" families represented in local schools, and numerous homeless students identified each month, "our students and families need your help."

The Pawtucket Backpackers is comprised of members of the Pawtucket School Committee Wellness Subcommittee, Sodexo Food Services, the Pawtucket School Department staff and community members. The program is partnering with city officials.

Pawtucket Backpackers chairwoman Joanne Bonollo offered special thanks to Bristol County Savings Bank for its generous contribution of $5,000 to start the new school year, a grandmother from Lincoln who sent $5 because she didn't want to see children go hungry, and every individual and organization in between.

"You are all appreciated and make helping our students possible," said Bonollo.

Anyone who is unable to assist with the food drive and still wants to help can send a tax deductible contribution to: Pawtucket Backpackers, 286 Main St., Pawtucket, RI 02860. Pawtucket Backpackers is a nonprofit organization. All contributions are tax deductible.

Anyone with questions about the program should contact Joanne Bonollo by emailing or calling 401-243-4411.