Food program hoping to expand ‘backpack’ idea for hungry school children in the Okanagan

Food for Thought backpack program
A new program is hoping to help feed hungry school kids in the Okanagan.

A food program coordinator says hundreds of children in the Okanagan are at risk of going to school hungry.

Cheryl Hoffman is with Food For Thought, which is part of a non-profit organization called Hope for the Nations.

“In the Okanagan, we have over 4,500 food-insecure children that we are seeing at risk,” Hoffman told Global News.

Being food insecure means not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

READ MORE: Calgary kids learn skills for life through Kid Food Nation program

In area schools, those numbers have serious consequences.

“We have children here locally showing up to school not having eaten all weekend,” Hoffman said.

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Studies have shown that children have no appetite for learning when they’re hungry.

So Hope for the Nations is hoping people will help support a program for hungry school children called Food For Thought.

Food For Thought already offers a breakfast program in 30 schools around the Okanagan.

Now it’s rolling out a new program, one that will see at-risk students sent home on weekends with a backpack of healthy food.

Boosting kids brain power and immunity this school year
Boosting kids brain power and immunity this school year

“We’re in six schools in the Central Okanagan and what we would like to do is increase that to seven more schools that are in desperate need,” Hoffman said.

“It just breaks my heart,” said Peter Boyd, owner of Peter’s Your Independent Grocer.

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Boyd has stepped up and is backing the backpack program.

“Where’s the outrage of having our children going to school and being hungry?” Boyd asked.

“Often I hear ‘Mr. Zoppie, I’m hungry,’” said Rob Zoppie, the principle at Pearson Road Elementary, one of the schools that the program is hoping to expand to.

Zoppie said “even though we are not in school on the weekends and over breaks, we know that families are going to have support to feed their children.”

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