New Canaan Blessings in a Backpack Donates Food to Stamford Students
September 25, 2013
New Canaan Patch
by DJ McAneny
On Wednesday, close to two dozen women from throughout Fairfield County met at a New Canaan house owned by Tina Kramer that she and partner Shawnee Knight have transformed into a makeshift supermarket.
Food shelves line what could be a family room, stocked to the brim with water bottles, snacks, rice, beans. In a room just off the front door, nylon backpacks filled with enough food to provide for a weekend line the floor in groups of 100. There they will wait until Friday, when they’ll be distributed to students of Stamford’s Trailblazer’s Academy who qualify for free or reduced lunches.
Kramer and Knight are co-program coordinators for the New Canaan chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, a national campaign that provides food for children in need, presented in a backpack, so they’ll have something to eat over the weekend. The women gathered at Kramer’s house were their to pack the backpacks with food in an assembly-line set up.
“[Kramer] and I started this chapter in Connecticut,” Knight said Wednesday just prior to the start of all the work. “It’s our first year. We had our first fundraiser in May. In September, we delivered our first round of backpacks.”
Kramer and Knight committed to providing food over the next three 38-week school years. They’re allotted to spend roughly $4 per backpack, or just about $150 annually per child. That’s just over $45,000 necessary for the three-year commitment.
“We’re providing for 100 kids right now,” Knight said. “There are 145 students on the free or reduced lunch program currently, which they have to belong to in order to qualify for Blessings in a Backpack… The organization gets us the bags and we have to figure out where to get the food. We’re only allowed to spend what the organization outlines we can spend. We have 24 weeks of food so far.”
Kramer said the idea sprung from the pair wanting to be more actively involved in their community. She said they were tired of being passive observers and wanted to do something more worthwhile to make a difference.
“I saw an article on Blessings in a Backpack, and we thought, ‘that’s an opportunity to make a difference. We should get involved,'” she said. “It was a way for us to do something other than writing a check.”
The representatives for Blessings in a Backpack’s national organization are making a trip to Washington, DC, this week to put together 1,000 bag of food with members of Congress and the U.S. Secretary of Education Anne Duncan to introduce them to the program. This week’s packing efforts on a local scale were to help highlight grassroots efforts about Blessings in a Backpack, Kramer said.
“We’re packing bags this week to help raise awareness,” she said.
Domus’ Chief of Staff Garland Walton said the program provides a wonderful piece of mind for families that might be struggling or parents who are working multiple jobs over a weekend and can’t always be home with their children.
“Honestly, we’re thrilled so many people donated and relieved for our kids and their families,” Walton said. “It’s healthy food that’s safe [for the children] to prepare by themselves or with a sibling. About 90-percent of the kids in our middle school qualify for free or reduced lunch, and that’s more than double the rest of Stamford’s average. It relieves stress for families working though the weekend because it give kids healthy food and parents can be sure there’s something there for children to eat. At least the kids have an option now, where, before, they had no option.”