More than 36,0000 children in the Big Bend live in “working poor” households; living just barely above the federal poverty level. Their families live paycheck-to-paycheck, often not earning enough to cover basic necessities, including food. Second Harvest has several programs to meet the specific nutritional needs of children.
Our child nutrition programs serve children who qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year, but often do not have consistent meals when not in school. Our Backpack Program provides children with a bag of food each Friday to ensure their nutritional needs are met over the weekend. Each food bag includes six components: milk, protein, ready-to-eat, fruit, vegetable and grain, and fits into a child’s backpack.
Second Harvest of the Big Bend started the backpack program in 2010 with one school site. The program has since grown to provide more than 5,620 bags of food every week to children in Leon, Gadsden, Calhoun, Liberty, Jackson, Jefferson and Taylor counties, serving children who rely on school breakfasts and lunches for their meals. Without our assistance, these children may go hungry over the weekend, returning to school hungry, distracted and not functioning at their full potential.
Surveys are collected both at the beginning and the end of the school year from participating children and their parents, and from teachers of those children. We look to the survey results for feedback about how to improve the program the following school year.
Our surveys of teachers and students participating in the backpack program indicate an increase in attendance, alertness, attention span and improved behavior. Also, overall health and weight gain is seen as a significant improvement.
No federal funding exists for this program, therefore, the number of children we can serve each school year is dependent upon how much money we are able to raise through grants and donations.
For the 2018/2019 school year, we distributed 34,778 backpacks, or 208,668 meals, through our backpack program.
Afterschool Meals Program (AMP)
The Afterschool Meal Program helps feed local children at community centers and churches after school during the school months of August through June. This program helps bridge the gap for children who receive most of their meals from school and may not have a nutritious dinner when they go home. The partner sites have the option to serve a two-component snack, a five-component meal, or both during the afterschool hours.
During the 2020/2021 school year, we have seven parks and recreation center distribution sites.
Additionally, our “Food on the Move Afterschool” program delivers free food for kids in Leon County at designated neighborhood sites each Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout the school year, and provided 6,000 meals during the 2020/2021 school year. The current Food on the Move Afterschool route schedule is as follows:
Summer Food Program
The Summer Food Program provides a free, nutritious meal and snack at sponsored sites to children who might otherwise go hungry. By providing meals during the summer months, we ensure that children continue to have a stable source of food for their nourishment and growth when school is out.
Second Harvest’s “Food on the Move” van is delivering free food to kids 18 and under at nine Tallahassee locations, Monday-Friday, June 22-Aug. 7.
Additionally, our 2022 Summer Feeding Program includes 13 Summer Break Spot locations in Leon, Madison and Gulf Counties, providing free breakfast, lunch and/or supper to kids 18 and under.
Find a Summer Feeding site near you anywhere in the State of Florida: Find a Summer Break Spot
If you are interested in becoming a Summer Food Service Program site, please complete the online application: Summer Food Program Site Registration
Food on the Move
The Food on the Move program helps bridge the gap during summer months for kids who rely on school for most of their meals. Second Harvest’s Food on the Move van travels to five neighborhoods every weekday, and served 4,000 meals to children during summer 2021. Children enjoy nutrition education activities while they eat a healthy meal.