Weekend Backpack Partnership Shows Real Results for Schenectady Schoolchildren


CONTACT: Jo Ann LeSage Nelson

SCHENECTADY, NY, September 12, 2016―Members of the Schenectady Weekend Backpack Partnership, which helps children and families meet their weekend nutritional needs by providing children with food to take home on Friday afternoons, again reported significant evidence that the program is having a positive impact on the children who participate.

During the 2015 – 2016 school year, 25,141 bags of food were distributed to nearly 900 children in Schenectady City School District elementary schools. That equates to 150,846 meals for the children and their families. The program’s goal is to provide students with six meals to last over each two-and-a-half-day weekend. In total, 324,712 pounds of food, including 35,476 pounds of fresh produce, were distributed during the past school year.

Two years ago, several community organizations teamed up to expand the program from the small number of students who were then being served (135 in six elementary schools) to nearly 700 students in all 15 elementary schools in the Schenectady City School District. The program was expanded again last spring when the number of participants reached 897.

Results from the 2015 – 2016 school year show that:

  • Approximately 88 percent of students in the program improved or maintained their academic performance from the previous school year, compared to 84 percent of students who didn’t participate.
  • The attendance of participants throughout the school year was six percent higher than that of non-participating students.

Denise Gonick, president and CEO of MVP Health Care, who convened the partners more than two years ago to support the fledgling program, said, “The continued improvements in academic achievement and attendance show that ensuring children have nutritious food to eat over the weekend has a significant impact on their performance at school. MVP remains fully committed to supporting this program and is proud to work alongside our community partners who share our belief that no child should go hungry.”

Several organizations have teamed up with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, the City Mission of Schenectady and the Schenectady City School District to ensure the program’s success. Partners in the project raise funds to support the project and have recruited volunteers from across the region to help pack the bags and distribute them to area schools. In addition to MVP Health Care, the partners are SEFCU, The Schenectady Foundation, the Schenectady City School Foundation, Price Chopper and Whitsons School Nutrition.

Between lunchtime on Friday and breakfast on Monday, many Schenectady schoolchildren are unsure of where their next full meal will come from, or even if there will be a meal. Although the federal school breakfast and lunch program helps students during the week, many students are at risk of hunger on weekends. These students typically have lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism, and often exhibit behavioral problems as a result.

“Over the past two years this program has provided thousands of pounds of food to children and families in the Schenectady City School District,” said Michael J. Castellana, SEFCU president and CEO. “SEFCU is proud to continue to support these efforts because we know that children who are properly nourished achieve better grades, have reduced absenteeism, and are less likely to have discipline problems. It’s our responsibility as a community to make sure that hunger doesn’t affect the lives and future of our children.”

“The Weekend Backpack Program has had a significant impact on the students and families in the Schenectady City School District,” said Larry Spring, superintendent of the Schenectady City School District. “So many of the students who have participated in this program have demonstrated improved school readiness, attendance and boosted academic performance. Being able to provide these backpacks full of food, thanks to our caring community of partners who donate time, money and effort, better positions our students to come to school ready to learn and be successful. This collaboration, along with the support of so many, has demonstrated how a community can come together to bring awareness, provide necessary support and make such a huge difference in the lives of our children. I am extremely grateful and remain confident that support for this important program will continue.”

The annual cost to provide food for each child in the Weekend Backpack Partnership is approximately $200. The partners are hoping to raise an additional $50,000 by October 1 to ensure that the program will be sustainable throughout the new school year and beyond.

The Schenectady Foundation recently launched a campaign to raise the additional funds, urging community members to make financial contributions and volunteer their time. Funds raised will supplement contributions made by the Foundation, MVP Health Care and SEFCU and ensure the program’s continuity and expansion to more children. “As little as $25 enables us to provide weekend food for one child for a month,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of The Schenectady Foundation. “It’s a great investment with big returns.”

SEFCU has made it easy for community members to help by securing the keyword “4FOOD” for texting donations. Donors can text the word “4FOOD” to 91-999 to make an easy donation using a credit card. The funds will go to the SEFCU Foundation and then during the month of September 100 percent of the donated funds will be given to the Regional Food Bank in support of the Weekend Backpack Partnership. Thanks to SEFCU’s partnership with DeNooyer Chevrolet, which is marking its 45th anniversary by donating $4,500 per month to local organizations that fight hunger, the credit union will match every community dollar donated during the month, up to $4,500.

Contributions to the Weekend Backpack Partnership can also be made through The Schenectady Foundation at www.schenectadyfoundation.org.

About MVP Health Care

MVP Health Care is a nationally recognized, community-focused, not-for-profit health insurer serving more than 700,000 members in New York and Vermont. Committed to the complete well-being of its members, MVP provides the tools and information they need to achieve better health and peace of mind. For more information, visit www.mvphealthcare.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mvphealthcare, and on Twitter at @MVPHealthCare.