---- — TICONDEROGA — More kids are eating full meals on weekends here.
The Kiwanis Club of Ticonderoga BackPack Program has expanded to the Ticonderoga Middle School with a grant from Stewart’s Holiday Match Program.
The initiative, begun in January, sends eligible students home each Friday with backpacks stocked with food to help them eat healthy over the weekend.
To start, the program packed backpacks for 30 Ticonderoga Elementary School students.
The Stewart’s Shop grant of $1,250 made it possible to add 15 Ticonderoga Middle School students to the program, according to Kiwanis Club President John Bartlett.
He said the backpacks are distributed every Friday at dismissal and are intended to last the weekend.
On Monday, the students bring the empty backpacks to school to be refilled for Friday.
The club wants to expand to St. Mary’s Catholic School in Ticonderoga and Crown Point Central School in the fall. Those are the schools within the organization’s service area, Bartlett said.
The Kiwanis Club works through a committee established at Ticonderoga Central School District to distribute the food to students.
The backpacks are numbered to allow students to discretely pick them up at the end of the day, said John Donahue, principal of Ticonderoga elementary and middle schools.
The backpacks include breakfast items such as oatmeal, cereal and granola bars. Entrees consist of macaroni and cheese, Spaghettios, tuna and soup. Snack items, fruits, vegetables and a loaf of bread are included. Beverages include milk and juice.
The Stewart’s funding will be used to buy food from the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
Donahue said the school formed a committee to determine which students qualified for backpacks. Then the parents were contacted to see if they wanted their children to participate.
This year, the program will run to the end of the school year in June, and next year it will start in October and run through June as well.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the support we’ve received,” Donahue said.
It costs $167 to provide weekend backpacks to one child for the entire school year.
The club members had first thought they would do the shopping themselves for the backpacks, Bartlett said, but then found out about the Regional Food Bank, which provides the food at a much more manageable cost than through other sources.
“They already have a program,” he said. “The count is up to, I think, 31 or 32 schools.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Kiwanis is accepting donations for its program. Make tax-deductible checks payable to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and mail them to: Ticonderoga Kiwanis. P.O. Box 44, Ticonderoga NY 12883.