Blessings in a Backpack to expand next school year

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — A program aimed at providing eligible students with meals for non-school days during the school year will be expanding to another school for the 2013-14 school year.

Blessings in a Backpack piloted its program at Garfield Elementary School in Wyandotte after Dana Browning, chairperson for Blessings in a Backpack, said she approached the company in May 2011 because it was something she felt the community should be involved in.

The program became successful, Browning said, and it will extend its reach to the 200 eligible students at Monroe Elementary School. She said 200 students are qualified for the program at Garfield Elementary.

The program will enter its third year and is fundraising to provide the 400 weekly backpacks necessary for the two schools. Last year 125 students participated at Garfield, Browning said, but the program is looking to maximize the number of backpacks available to the students.

The backpacks are filled with enough food for six meals for all weekends during the school year, said Cheryl Whitton, president of the Blessings in a Backpack-Michigan Advisory Board, and any donations made to Blessings for a specific community stays in that community and is used to fill the backpacks.

She said Blessings in a Backpack is a national, non-profit organization that started in 2005 and began operating in Michigan four years later.

The meals provided to the students in the program have benefits for the recipients and their peers, Whitton said, because receiving proper meals at school, and especially at home, has proven to reduce behavioral problems, increase the child’s attention span, and boost test scores.

“In order for us to provide backpacks for two elementary schools,” Browning said, “we will need to raise $40,000 a year to keep the backpacks going home each week. A $100 donation would provide the weekly backpack to students.”

Blessings in a Backpack will host its third Detroit River Tour Thursday that will depart from Bishop Park at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 each or $40 per couple.

“It is a unique and exciting event that will allow participants an unforgettable experience, while providing another way to donate to such a great cause,” Browning said.

The Knights of Columbus Council 1802, at 3530 Biddle Ave., provided the program with a $1,000 donation at the June 4 Wyandotte Public Schools School Board meeting. K of C member Robert Kirby said the money is in support of a committee that has “a passion for our kids.”

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at