825 families from throughout Westchester and Putnam signed up to participate in the Summer Backpack program this summer. In the program, these households will receive weekly food parcels filled with supplemental food, books, and activities for school-aged children to enjoy throughout the summer.
The program, intended for families with students that qualify for free or reduced lunch, is organized by United Way of Westchester and Putnam, who teamed up with various partners to provide the Summer Backpack Program to low-income families of school-aged children on a weekly basis from July 13- August 31. While each household receives one parcel weekly, during the final week of the program, each school-aged child within the household will receive a backpack filled with school supplies to prepare them for the new school year.
Partners include Carmel Central School District, DoorDash, Elmsford Union Free School District, Feeding Westchester, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, Ossining Union Free School District, Mount Vernon Public Library, and Peekskill City School District.
“We are thrilled with the number of families who signed up and we’re excited to finally launch the program, which took weeks of preparation,” said Tom Gabriel, president and CEO of UWWP. “Many volunteers helped put the parcels together, and more volunteers are coming to help in the coming weeks, so between the volunteers and partners, it has been a true community effort. We want the parcels to help alleviate hunger during the summer months, and reduce the “summer slide,” which is the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the summer when kids aren’t in school. The backpack of supplies at the end of the summer will also help the families to financially divert the cost of those supplies to other much-needed resources.
With 825 households signed up, at least, 2,500 people will directly benefit from the program, though, Gabriel estimates that number to be higher, considering the supplemental food will likely go toward the whole household and not just the individual students.
“We are so grateful to work alongside our dear partners at United Way, providing our neighbors with necessities, like food and school supplies, through the Summer Backpack Program,” President & CEO of Feeding Westchester, Karen C. Erren, said. “That each week 825 parcels of nourishing food and educational activities are delivered directly to doorsteps across the county is just incredible, and ensures that children and their families can depend on having nutritious food in their homes. Partners like United Way and DoorDash are so valuable. We make a greater impact — and get more food to more families — when we work together.”
“This program is a collective effort and would not have been possible without our partners,” Gabriel said.