One out of four Michigan children lives in a household with food insecurity, meaning they do not always know where their next meal is coming from, according to Gleaners Community Food Bank.
"One of the things about the communities of Plymouth and Canton is they think we don't have that need," said Kristen Hennessey, food services director for Plymouth Canton Community Schools (PCCS). "But we have hungry kids everywhere."
There are 45 to 60 students in PCCS who take home backpacks each week filled with food from Gleaners Community Food Bank.
"After Christmas, you see layoffs happen," Hennessey said.
She said the number of students taking backpacks home increases at that time. She said the total number of students receiving backpacks also has increased over the years.
Before Hennessey joined PCCS, she said, there was a smaller version of the program in place. She said they wanted to keep it going, so they started the program in 2009 as it is today.
Back then, there were only 15 backpacks. Now the program has grown to triple and quadruple that.
"We never turn anyone away," Hennessey said.
She said every year PCCS has to sign up with Gleaners to put in an estimate of how many backpacks will be needed.
Two men in PCCS' warehouse pack the food into the backpacks every Wednesday and deliver them to the schools on Thursdays so students can return the bags on Fridays.
All information on participants in the program is confidential. Hennessey said she and her staff work closely with school principals to help determine who receives the backpacks.
"We try to get backpacks that look like the backpacks out now," she said.
They don't want to make it obvious who is taking the extra food home, she said. Some of the bags are hung in the halls with the students' own bags. Other students pick up the bags in the office and some parents come to collect them.
Want to help? Contribute to Patch and Gleaners virtual food drive!
Patch.com, through its 30 Michigan sites including Plymouth-Canton, launched an online food drive to raise $10,000 by Nov. 17 to feed area families. This is the first virtual food drive for the Gleaners Community Food Bank, and Patch is proud and honored to be their first partner.
Shop Gleaners' virtual grocery shelves. Click to get started.