Weekend Food4Kids Program!

We provide weekend meals and snacks to Title 1 school students, so they
can show up to class well-nourished and ready to learn.

Food Bank forms Partnership with PV Schools to Feed Undernourished Students

In 2006, the Paradise Valley Unified School District joined forces with the PV Community food bank to launch a new program for Title 1 School students who are going hungry on the weekends.

Although these children received free meals during the school week, they had little or no food support on the weekend and often arrived to school on Monday feeling lethargic and unable to focus on learning.

In partnership with the PV School District, the food bank created the Weekend Backpack Program. The program provided at-risk children with non-perishable, nutritious items that constituted two breakfasts, two lunches and snacks. The child picked up the backpack at school on Friday and was asked to return it to school on Monday. The PV Food Bank collected the bags, refilled them and return them to the schools on Friday.

Many students would forget to return their backpacks on Monday, creating a lag in handing them out for the upcoming week. As the program expanded, the food bank streamlined the process by eliminating the backpacks and using recyclable plastic bags instead.

Two volunteers pose during Larkspur Backpack delivery

Backpack Program Grew Steadily

In the program’s first year, the food bank served 50 students from Arrowhead Elementary. During the 2007-2008 school year, demand increased and the food bank began supplying food for 100 students at  two schools. By the following year, we provided weekend food for three schools: 50 students at Arrowhead, 60 at Larkspur and 40 at Echo Mountain. 

As more families learned about the program, it grew steadily each year. In the 2015-2016 school year, we served 502 Title 1 School students for 34 weeks of the year. By the 2019-2020 school year, we ramped up to 807 students in 17 Title 1 Schools.

Backpack shelves are filled

Pandemic Limited Participation in Program

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the schools, students and overall program. As schools prepared to shut down in spring 2020, our weekly service peaked at 883 students during April and May.

At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, in-home learning had drastically limited participation in the Weekend Food4Kids Backpack Program. Many parents were unable to pick up the weekend food, as well as the free breakfast and lunch food that had been served in cafeterias when schools were open for in-person learning.

In 2020, the food bank changed its program name to Weekend Food4Kids Backpack Program to more accurately describe its mission.

This year, the program is projected to serve an average of 650 students weekly. With a full return to in-person learning next year, the food bank anticipates numbers increasing to 750 students per week.

Volunteers packing bags for the schools in the community

Schools and Food Bank Volunteers Work Together Closely

One of the keys to the program’s success is working directly with each Title 1 School in the PV Unified School District. This district includes the Palomino Square, the lowest income area in all of Northeast Phoenix.

The process begins with school social workers identifying students who may not be getting adequate nutrition on weekends. Then the food bank purchases and stores the food items to be used in the program. During the school year, dozens of volunteers help assemble the packs and deliver them to participating schools for distribution on Fridays.

Backpack Program Shelves

Students Receive Well-Balanced, Protein-Rich Foods

Although the food choices have varied through the years, weekend packs have always included enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches, as well as snacks.

All food items are single-serve, nutritious foods that appeal to children. The current food menu, developed by the food bank’s registered dietician and fellow board member, is a combination of protein-rich items that are kid-friendly.

Since these food supplies are not typically donated at community food drives, the food bank must purchase all of these food products, which has created funding challenges.

The food used for each weekend pack historically averaged about $4.20 per unit. The “food only” cost for a 34-week school year averaged $142 per student.

Our current “higher protein” menu costs $5.10 per unit and $156 per student for the 34-week school year. While we cover all facility costs using general donations, we try to cover annual food costs with specified individual giving, as well as foundation grants and charity donations.

Backpack Delivery to Larkspur

Generous Donors Have Helped Fund Weekend Food4Kids Program Throughout the Years

We are fortunate that many of our supporters have contributed year after year, allowing us to fund our base food costs, while continuing to search for new funding from foundations that share our passion for feeding hungry kids.

Special recognition goes to the Herbert H. & Barbara Dow Foundation for providing grants totaling $230,000 over the last decade. At a $7.13 average unit cost, this foundation alone has turned nearly 55,000 “hungry weekends” into “happy weekends” for kids in the PV Unified School District.

Join us in fighting Hunger

Because of the generosity of all our donors, the children in our community can now come to school well-nourished and ready to learn.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please email us at directorpvcfb@gmail.com. To make a donation to our Weekend Food4Kids program, please click here and select Weekend Food4Kids Program.

Backpack Delivery to Larkspur