In Western New York, thousands of elementary school children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches may not have enough nutritious food to eat at home over the weekend. That’s why 11 Wegmans Food Markets in the Buffalo area have partnered with customers, the Food Bank of Western New York, and WIVB-TV to support the Food Bank’s BackPack Program, through which children in need are provided with weekend bags of nutritious, easy-to-prepare food. This year, customers bought food for kids that totaled 150,570 pounds of food -- enough for 30,114 backpacks! The 2016 campaign topped last year’s total by more than 20,000 pounds.
"Within the Food Bank’s four-county service area, nearly one in four children do not have consistent access to nutritious food.” says Stephanie Lawson, youth and outreach programs supervisor for the Food Bank of Western New York. “This is why we are so grateful for this partnership. With the support of Wegmans, WIVB-TV, and the Western New York community, we can work to ensure that no child goes hungry.”
The bags distributed through the BackPack Program are loaded with kid-friendly foods that don’t need refrigeration, and that are perfect for a healthy snack or meal. Examples? Canned corn, apple sauce cups, crunchy peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, and tomato soup. The pre-packed bags come in three different assortments, giving customers the option to buy a $3, $5, or $10 bag.
“Each year, our customers show enormous generosity with their purchases of food for children in need,” says Michele Mehaffy, Buffalo Consumer Affairs manager for Wegmans. The campaign will provide backpacks of food to children at 30 schools in Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara counties every Friday throughout the school year. The Food Bank of Western New York works with schools to identify the children who should take home a backpack on Fridays.
After a customer buys one of the pre-packed bags, store employees take it to a pickup area for the Food Bank. In July and August, Food Bank employees and volunteers sort the donated foods so they’ll be ready for backpacks in the fall months.