The Blessings in a Backpack program, which is already very successful in the United States, was launched in Louisville, Kentucky in 2005 by Stan Curtis and Hilary Duff. To date, the program has grown to feed over 10,000 children at 51 schools in the United States and Canada with the help of celebrity supporters that include Hilary Duff, Tanya Kim and Olivia Waldriff. The program gives children a donated backpack filled with food every Friday so that they have food to eat over the weekends. The results speak for themselves: the students in the program have better test scores, improved reading abilities, improved behaviour and better school attendance because they are healthier.
BRINGING IT TO CANADA
In Toronto, one in three children lives in poverty and goes without food on a regular basis. A program like Blessings in a Backpack will not only help to feed these hungry children but will also help them to succeed at school. Just $80.00 will feed a child for an entire school year. In Toronto, the program is being administered by the Toronto District School Board and each school is responsible for each of their programs.
When did you decide that the program should be expanded into Canada?
A young [8-year-old] Canadian actress wanted to help feed kids. Her name is Olivia Waldriff, and she was inspired by Hilary’s efforts with Blessings in a Backpack and she said, “Can we get the program started in Canada?”
How can the public help Blessings in a Backpack?
You can contribute by going to blessingsinabackpack.com and donating [or by helping] your local schools start a Blessings in a Backpack program.
Are there plans to expand the program to other Canadian cities?
Yes. Unfortunately, there are hungry Canadian children in every Canadian city. If the need is there, we want to go.
What would you say to kids to inspire them to get involved?
I would say to them that it would help by getting the word out about the program and [about] how it helps. They can even help in their communities by donating to the local food drive. Every person can make a difference no matter what. If every person in the world did something small, think of the changes we could make together.
How does it feel to be involved with the Blessings in a Backpack program?
It warms my heart. I believe that education is one of the keys to empowering young people, as YOU are the future of the generations to come. Everybody deserves the basic necessity of food. If I can do my part to help nourish bellies and energize brains, then absolutely I will!
How does the Blessings in a Backpack program in Canada compare to the one in the United States?
[The programs are] the same except [that two of the Canadian schools] are high schools. These high school students are pretty much living on their own and trying to support themselves. [The students] work night jobs and go to school in the day and don’t eat. One student told me that he only eats one meal every three days. How are we expecting them to learn without fuel in their bodies?
What is the main goal of this program?
The ultimate goal is to have no hungry [kids] anywhere in Canada or the United States. People think that poverty only happens in Africa and India but it’s happening in neighbourhoods not far away from where we are growing up. We don’t want kids to have to learn on empty bellies. It’s a long way away but it just takes a dream; it just takes hard work. It just takes communities of people coming together and having the same goal.
Thank you, Stan Curtis, Olivia Waldriff, Tanya Kim and Hilary Duff!