Beginning in 2007, concerned citizens in Kent County at the grass roots level recognized the fact that a large number of our children live in homes where there is insufficient food, and as a result, local backpack programs emerged. The Backpack Program refers to organized efforts in our community to provide a bag of nutritious meals and snacks for school children on a weekly basis. These foods are provided for the weekend when school breakfasts and lunches are not available to children who live with food insecurity. The goal is to relieve immediate hunger and to allow children to come to school on Monday feeling well and ready to learn.
In school year 2017-2018, 981 of the 2001 students enrolled in Kent County Public Schools received free / reduced price breakfast and lunch, almost 50% of the total school population. This school year, volunteers are packing meals for 330 students, 34% of the students with free / reduced lunch status:
- Kent Co. Middle School 50 students
- Garnett Elementary 65 students
- Rock Hall Elementary 130 students
- Galena Elementary 55 students
- Kent County High School 30 students
The Backpack Program began in Rock Hall 10 years ago. Garnett Elementary students were added in 2009, Kent County Middle in 2010, and soon followed by the other elementary schools. The high school was added in the spring of 2019.
The Community Food Pantry learned of these efforts of volunteers in churches and civic organizations, and in 2010 invited the backpack committees to order shelf stable individual servings of food from the Maryland Food Bank at no charge. Presently the Food Pantry is funding almost $40,000 backpack food a year. The Pantry relies on donations from local citizens, institutions, businesses and groups, along with the Carl and Constance Ferris Charitable Trust to fund the Program. In addition, many individuals, churches and other organizations purchase food or make financial contributions directly to the community groups who do the packing of the food.
Donations for the Backpack Program can be mailed to Backpack Program, c/o The Community Food Pantry, P.O. Box 346, Chestertown, MD 21620. Please make out the check to “Backpack Program.”