Brodhead school district expanding weekend backpack program

Students in need take food home every Friday
Brodhead school district expanding weekend backpack program

At Albrecht Elementary School, more than 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, according to district officials.

Many students come to school hungry, which takes their mind off their schoolwork and makes them focus on their grumbling tummies.

“There were kids that were coming to school on a daily basis, and they kept saying the same thing: They’re hungry,” Principal Dave Novy said. “So the teachers would go out of their own pockets, and they would go to the store and they’d buy granola bars or they’ll buy something that they can just keep in their room on a daily basis.”

Last year, a group of staff, led by school counselor Kate Hipenbecker, started the Albrecht Backpack Program. The program provides students in need with a backpack full of easy-to-prepare meals and snacks to take home over the weekend.

“We know that our students, if they’re hungry and they’re thinking about, like, ‘Where is my next meal coming from?’ they’re not able to do their best here at school,” Hipenbecker said.Brodhead school district expanding weekend backpack program

The program started with just three students last year, but it’s already to grown to 18. The district wants to continue to expand the program so students at the elementary, middle and high schools can benefit from it, if they’re in need.

“We know there’s so many more (students), and we’re just trying to get our resources together to get it done,” Novy said.

The program runs exclusively on donations from community members and organizations. Currently, only one volunteer shops for the food and packs the backpacks each week.

“I’d like it to get to the point where we can involve the churches and the community and getting the whole community together,” Novy said.

He said the response from the community has been great so far, and he hopes it continues as the district looks to support between 30 and 50 students with the Albrecht Backpack Program.

“People are coming in: ‘What can I do? What can I buy? Can I help pack these backpacks? What can I do to help?’ and it’s just been overwhelming,” Novy said. “We have people coming in and signing checks and wanting to donate and didn’t realize that there was a problem.”

Hipenbecker said the students and families who need the program really appreciate the community’s support.

“We’ve heard some really awesome comments from some of the kids that are benefiting from it – just that they really appreciate it, and they look forward to it, and they kind of count on it,” she said. “So that really means a lot to hear from the kids.”

Food and monetary donations can be dropped off at Albrecht Elementary School in Brodhead. School officials say the best kind of food to buy is easy-to-prepare meals that don’t require can openers or extra ingredients, as well as snack items such as granola bars, juice boxes, crackers, pretzels and applesauce.Brodhead school district expanding weekend backpack program