THE BACKPACK PROGRAM PROVIDES WEEKEND FOOD ASSISTANCE FOR ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS IN KENT COUNTY

For the 2019-2020 school year, 325 students in the three elementary schools, the middle school and the high school, in Kent County Public Schools took home weekend meals and snacks on Friday afternoons in their backpacks. These students are in need of supplemental food on weekends due to food insecurity in the home.  The Community Food Pantry and other donors provide the shelf stable food.

When the shutdown began in March, 2020, no time was lost continuing the Backpack Program.  The packing was moved from five sites throughout the County and centralized at the Worton Community Center where the administration provided us with plenty of space to work. The food bags were then delivered by Kent County Public Schools; the buses delivered meals to students throughout the County every weekday, and on Fridays they graciously agreed to deliver the weekend food bags as well.  This time, any youth age 18 or under could receive a weekend food bag; this allowed the Pantry to reach out into the County to many more people during the pandemic.

When summer arrived, the school district continued delivering meals and again, the bus drivers willingly took along our weekend food bags to be delivered on Fridays. Volunteers at the 17 sites throughout the County helped give them out – no one was denied food. This continued until mid-August, and changes needed to be made as school opened virtually for 2020 -2021. We were fortunate to have obtained permission to centralize our packing at Kent County High School. We are grateful the school has provided us with space to store our food, pack the bags, receive deliveries from the Maryland Food Bank, and also to  continue to deliver our weekend food bags. This procedure will continue for the remainder of this school year even as the schools reopen on a hybrid basis. As of February, 2021, volunteers pack and the schools deliver 325-350 Backpack food bags every week.

Thank you to the Carl and Constance Ferris Charitable Trust Foundation and all our donors who enable this program to continue.  This is an all-volunteer program that distributes food purchased by the Community Food Pantry.

If your child or children need this food, it is available at all the school lunch drop-off sites in Kent County the last day of every school week.  Anyone age 18 or under is welcome to receive one. Please call the Pantry at 410-778-0550 with questions, or call your child’s school counselor.  Also, you may call Rachel Perry, the Backpack Program Coordinator at 410-810-3949, or email rachelperrypanas@gmail.com.

For the seventh year in a row, Peoples Bank and many generous local sponsors, will put their energy, staff, and finances behind Chester Gras, a Mardi Gras celebration that benefits our backpack programs. On February 22, 2020, beginning at 11:30, the event will take place in a large heated tent on Spring Street, adjacent to the Peoples Bank in downtown Chestertown. The event features delicious gumbos donated by area restaurants as well as some Cajun food, a silent auction, children’s activities, a colorful parade on High Street, and lively music by Phil Dutton and the Alligators. This family-friendly event is well attended by people of all ages – some in Mardi Gras attire! Over the past six years, Chester Gras has raised significant funding for the Food Pantry to purchase food for the five backpack programs in Kent County Schools as well as in Sudlersville. These volunteer run programs provide weekend food (in the students’ backpacks) for children in our public schools who live with food insecurity. Last year, over $10,000 was raised, thanks to all the participants, Peoples Bank staff, generous sponsors from business and individual donations, and many volunteers from the community.

For more information or if you wish to donate resources or time, please contact the Food Pantry either through this website or call 410-778-0550. You may call the Backpack Program Coordinator, Rachel Perry, at 410-810-3949 or email rachelperrypanas@gmail.com. Thank you!