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Shenendehowa Central School District expands backpack program to help hungry teens

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CLIFTON PARK, NY (WRGB) – It’s a program now offering assistance to more than 200 students in grades K through 12.

The “Bountiful Backpack Program” started three years ago in the Shenendehowa Central School District to help hungry children.

“We know that if students aren't fed, the ability to learn in school doesn't happen so if we can help with that little gesture of sending food home, we will.”

Director of Policy and Community Development for the district Rebecca Carman said in addition to bags of food, there’s an added feature at the high school.

“A unique experience that we have is really at our high school building, that program has a unique food pantry that was created a couple years ago and it really is an opportunity where students can come and go when they need different food items to bring home over the weekend,” Carman explained.

Anywhere from 30 to 35 students utilize the pantry each week, according to Kathy Rizzicone who works at High School East.

“We also have health and beauty, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, we got donated milk cards so we also send that home a couple times a month, and whatever is in our pantry.”

Rizzicone believes more high school students need help, but haven’t been identified.

She added, “Our main purpose is that these kids get food, we don’t care how they get the food because there's a need for it.”

The students receive cereal, fresh produce, pasta, bread, peanut butter and jelly and a Stewart’s milk card. It’s a community effort involving a partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, fundraisers, and donations from people who want to give.

Students are referred to the program by their school counselors, administration or their parents. All the bags are packed privately and distributed discreetly.

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