Penn-Trafford program targets weekend hunger

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A new program starting in the Penn-Trafford School District is intended to make sure students aren't going hungry on weekends.

The Penn-Trafford Community Education Foundation is coordinating a “Backpacks-to-Go” program that is scheduled to begin in April to offer nutritious and easy-to-prepare meals and snacks for some students at the high school and Harrison Park Elementary School on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.

Organizers are hoping to expand the program to the district's other schools in the fall, said Pat Blahovec, a high school nurse.

Blahovec said the program will help some students who have been coming to school hungry on Mondays. About 40 students at the high school and Harrison Park already have been told about the program, but other parents or students can sign up for a backpack if they are interested, she said.

Despite an increase in the percentage of students who qualify for a free or reduced-price breakfast or lunch through the district, there is no income requirement to participate in the backpack program, Blahovec said. Almost 16 percent of Penn-Trafford's 4,040 students are eligible for the meal program this year, up from about 11 percent in 2008-09, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Organizers are requesting that community members donate backpacks to help with the launch of the program. Some seed money will come from the high school's Coffee for a Cause program.

Life-skills students in the district will help with the shopping to provide items such as canned fruit, applesauce, pudding, cereal, raisins and granola bars for the backpacks.

Lauren Traill, an elementary school counselor in the district, said similar programs in neighboring districts such as Franklin Regional and Norwin seem to help lift the spirits of students.

“That's my hope, that we'll be able to give something that they'll look forward to and will take a weight off their shoulders,” she said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671.

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