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Backpacks lined up on a shelfDo you know where your next meal will come from? For more than a dozen students at Howard L. Goff Middle School, the answer to that question on a Friday afternoon used to be “no.” Now, thanks to a new Backpack Program at the school, the answer is “yes.”

The school has partnered with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to supply 15 students identified by school staff as susceptible to hunger with breakfast and lunch on weekends. Each student will be given a backpack full of food every Friday, which is meant to fill the gap of students not being at school to receive their free breakfast and lunch.

“The Backpack Program provides the necessary nutrition needs over the weekends and breaks for students that would otherwise be left hungry and with either limited or no food,” said Goff Social Worker Jamie Eggleston. “As a result of this program, these students will be physically and mentally prepared to learn on Monday morning. I am hopeful that this program will positively impact students’ social-emotional wellness, academic behaviors, attendance and focus.”

Bread, apples and other food items on a tableThe Backpack Program, which started this past weekend, helps alleviate child hunger by discreetly providing hungry children with backpacks full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare food on Friday afternoons so they have food to eat throughout the weekend and during school breaks.

The first round of backpacks were stuffed with bread, pasta, apples, soup, cereal, tuna fish, beef jerky and Stewart’s Shops gift certificates for a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs.

The program has been funded through the rest of this school year and into part of the 2019-20 school year thanks to generous donations from Goff teachers and staff and local businesses, including Paesan’s Pizza and Restaurant. Because of the partnership with the Regional Food Bank, it costs approximately $4.50 a week to provide each student in the Backpack Program with breakfast and lunch over the weekend.

The East Greenbush Central School District will have a school bus pickup the food from the Regional Food Bank each week and deliver it to Goff Middle School where it will be sorted into backpacks.

“This is an exciting time for Goff Middle School and our students,” said Principal Wayne Grignon. “This partnership with the Regional Food Bank will allow us to ensure that some of our students’ nutritional needs are being met when they are not with us at Goff. We hope to continue the program indefinitely and are always looking for additional businesses to partner with to grow the program. I would be remiss if I did not thank Mr. Eggleston for helping to establish the program for the Goff community and Mrs. Lopez for reaching out to a local business.”

If you would like to donate to the Backpack Program, please visit the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York website, select “BackPack Program” from the drop down menu and indicate the gift should be dedicated to “Howard L. Goff.” You can also donate by check to Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York at 965 Albany-Shaker Road, Latham, New York 12110. Please write “BackPack Program – Howard L. Goff” in the memo line.