A child who complains about being hungry is not necessarily a child who qualifies for the backpack program. However, in the case of a chronically hungry child, certain questions can be asked to assess need.
In the morning, a child may say they are hungry. Ask them if they ate breakfast. If they say they skipped breakfast, find out why. Ask if they had enough food in their house or if they simply woke up late and did not have time for breakfast.
If they did eat breakfast, ask what they ate and if it was enough to make them full. You may also ask if they ate dinner the previous night. Once again, ask what they had for dinner and if it was enough to fill them up.
By asking a few questions you should be able to assess whether or not this is just a case of normal hunger (where your stomach growls in anticipation for food – not because of a series of involuntarily missed meals) or whether this seems to be a frequent incident that results because of food insecurity (the inability to afford enough food).
Certain physical features are indicators of vitamin and/or food deficiencies. If the skin of a child appears to be puffy and swollen, it can be due to a protein deficiency. A child who is very thin and whose bones are starting to protrude may have a lack of protein and calories. Another thing to watch for is redness around the lips and/or cracked lips. Finally, dry and itchy eyes can be a sign of a vitamin A deficiency.
Please keep in mind that the weight of a child is not always a sure indication of food insecurity. Some obesity is caused from poor nutrition in the diet of the child. Any of these physical signs should bring a concern and prompt further questions.
A child who says there is never enough food in the house or that all they had for dinner was some potato chips is the child who is considered chronically hungry. Even if a child worries that there will not be enough food at home, this is a cause for concern. Food insecurity is the main reason for the backpack program. Any child who exhibits this behavior should be considered a candidate.
Children who are chronically hungry are typically very careful to follow the rules of the program – they want to make sure they receive their food each week. With that in mind, children who are not chronically hungry will:
• Forget to pick up the backpack Friday afternoon
• Leave food at school
• Eat food before leaving school or on the bus ride home
• Complain about the flavor or variety of food
If you see a child displaying these behaviors, they may no longer need the backpack program. Talk to the child to find out more about their situation at home before making a decision. You may use your discretion and withdraw a student from the program at any time if their situation changes or if they misuse the program.
Sometimes children will be very open about what is going on at home. For example, a child may say that his/her dad has lost a job and that the mother does not work. By listening to your students and by being in contact with parents, the needs of the family can be assessed, which in turn can help determine whether the child needs to be receiving a backpack weekly.
A single parent family where the parent works on the weekend is probably a situation in which backpack can help a child who may be responsible for fixing their own meals. If the parent is able to fix meals for the child, but may be limited on the amount of food available, it may be more beneficial to refer the family to a food pantry.
Backpacks are designed for children who are not able to get sufficient food at home due to neglect or other circumstances that prevent them from having regular access to food.
The Site Coordinator serves four main functions in the school:
1. Serves as a liaison for staff, students, parents, and backpack program
2. Maintains documentation (student referral and parent permission records)
3. Confidentially distributes backpacks of food to approved children
4. Implements the backpack program and ensure compliance with all food safety standards
It is imperative that the participating school provide the necessary documentation required for each program participant.
The referral form must be filled out completely before it is submitted.
When documenting why you are referring a child, please be precise. Generic answers do not constitute that you have identified a real need.
Files coming soon.