Springs Hopes to Provide Kids With Weekend Food

The Springs School District is seeking the community’s help to open a chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to provide elementary schoolchildren with backpacks full of food for weekends. The Springs chapter would be the first on the East End.

 According to a recent survey, 3 percent of children (under the age of 18) who live in East Hampton fall below the poverty line.

Last week, Trisha Ewald, who helped implement a Blessings program at the Longwood School District, where Debra Winter, the new Springs superintendent, recently worked, came to Springs to meet with school administrators and community members. Among them were Loring Bolger of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee, Minerva Perez of Organizacion Latino-Americana, Pamela Bicket of the Springs Food Pantry, as well as representatives of United Healthcare, the insurance company that works with Medicare, which apparently would be the first corporate sponsor of the venture. Ms. Ewald is an employee of Blessing in a Backpack, which covers approximately 1,000 schools across 48 states.

Ms. Ewald said she grew up in a household where “food scarcity was a reality.” She began the program at Longwood four years ago as a volunteer, offering assistance to 50 children. The number has since grown to 300.

 Eric Casale, the Springs school principal, said about 50 children who receive free or subsidized lunches would qualify for the program. Ms. Ewald told the group that approximately $3,500 would have to be raised quickly to ensure that the program could begin at the start of the school year. The money would secure food for 50 children for half the school year, after which additional fund- raising would be needed. School officials apparently do not think the money can be found in the district’s budget.

The math is based on $4 per child, per backpack, per weekend. It would cost $7,000 to guarantee 50 full backpacks for every weekend during the 38-week school year. A $150 donation would feed one child for the entire school year, Ms. Ewald said. Each backpack contains two dinners, two lunches, two breakfasts, and two snacks.

A nationwide evaluation of Blessings in a Backpack conducted by a leading market research company to measure the program’s impact showed that in addition to eliminating weekend hunger, 59 percent of children fed through the program said they found it easier to concentrate at school, 60 percent saw a decrease in behavioral issues, 78 percent felt cared for by their community, while 60 percent of children reported that their school attendance drastically improved.

“Attendance at school on Fridays even increased as kids know they’ll be getting a backpack at the end of the day, Ms. Ewald said.

Anyone wishing to donate can make a check payable to Blessings in a Backpack and mail it to Springs School, 48 School Street, East Hampton 11937. Prospective donors interested in further details can contact Ms. Winter at dwinter@springsschool.org.