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Full bellies means more focused attention at A.W. Becker

New program focuses on community to support students

Do you ever have a hunger pang that distracts you from accomplishing a task? The new BackPack Program at A.W. Becker hopes to eliminate that feeling for students. The program, run by the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, focuses on meeting the needs of hungry children on weekends when other food resources are not available, by providing backpacks filled with nutritionally balanced food to participating school districts.

Teaching Assistants Sandi Ackert and Melanie Collins first approached the school about a year and a half ago to lay the groundwork for the program that began this October.

“We saw a need as the percent of children qualifying for free and reduced price lunch has increased over the past few years,” Ackert said.

Getting the program up and running and sustaining the weekly commitment to 14 Becker families has been a community affair. “Mutual cooperation all around is what is making this successful,” Ackert said.

The idea began with Ackert and Collins who received the support from school administrators and then enlisted the help of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The PTA provided backpacks for the 14 students; Stewart’s Shops donate a milk card for each backpack every other week; Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk bus drivers make a run to the food bank every Wednesday to pick up the food; custodians at Becker cleared a space in their room to store the backpacks and food; volunteers pack the bags to give to students each week; and donations made by the public restock the shelves at the food bank.

“It takes a village,” Collins said. “We all know that we are filling a need that also has an educational benefit- the students know they will be getting food for the weekend so they can focus on their schoolwork when they’re here.”

The program is free for participating families but relies on donations from the public to provide food to the families.

Donations can be made to the Regional Food Bank of NENY with “Backpack Program Ravena” in the memo line of the check to assure the donation goes directly to the A.W. Becker program.

Checks can be brought directly to the school (attention of Melanie Collins or Sandi Ackert) or mailed to:
Regional Food Bank of N.E.N.Y.
965 Albany-Shaker Rd.
Latham, NY 12110

For online donations, go to the Regional Food Bank website, click “Donate Now”, choose your donation amount then scroll down to “Adopt a Program” to designate “BackPack Ravena” as the recipient. Click here for donation page.