Helping Neighbors: Nutritious Meals Make For Better Grades
Good nutrition is important for establishing a foundation for a child’s physical and mental health, and academic achievement. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that can threaten that critical foundation. The F.I.S.H. Backpack Program assists youth with food insecurity and its negative effects by providing extra food for children. While other backpack programs are only offered during the school year, F.I.S.H. offers theirs year-round. “We want to make certain youth have the tools they need, including nutritious food, to succeed,” says Program Director Kathy Y. Monroe. This program provides children with supplemental food so they can continue to eat healthy meals when school provided meals are not available on weekends, holidays or during summer months.
The F.I.S.H. Backpack Program is offered to children in Grades K-8 at the Sanibel School, Grades 9-12 at area high schools and Pre-K at Children’s Education Center of the Islands, Sanibel Christian School and Summit Christian School. Each week, participating students are given non-perishable, nutritious foods that are kid-friendly, easy to prepare and taste great. The program, in partnership with Blessings in a Backpack and partially sponsored by The Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Foundation and private donors, is offered at no cost to the participant. Eligible households are those that live or work on Sanibel or Captiva, regardless of where their child attends school. Those who have been approved for the Free/Reduced Lunch Program are automatically eligible for the F.I.S.H. Backpack Program. Students not enrolled in Free/Reduced Lunch, and students in Pre-K, must qualify by informing F.I.S.H. of their interest and completing an intake application.
“We are constantly evaluating our Backpack Program food choices, and making changes and adjustments as necessary. All backpacks contain proteins, fruits and vegetables, snacks and drinks and are occasionally enhanced with a sweet treat,” states Monroe. “We try to include as many organic, healthy options as possible, however we cannot accommodate food allergies or dietary choices [gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, etc.].”
Food backpacks are assembled by F.I.S.H. volunteers and available for pick-up at the F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center at any time during the week. Parents may opt in and out of the program as their need dictates. Discreet feedback, evaluations and testimonials are requested from parents and children participating in the program. For additional information, please contact Program Director Kathy Y. Monroe at 239-472-4775.