Gary’s McCullough Academy students join the Weekend BackPack Food Brigade – Chicago Tribune

About 100 students at Frankie Woods McCullough Academy in Gary avoid weekend hunger and eat healthier thanks to the Weekend BackPack program.

The students received their first green and gray backpacks from the Northern Indiana Chapter of the Links on Friday through a $23,000 grant from Purdue University Northwest.

The program continues every week throughout the school year.

Students at Frankie Woods McCullough Academy donate donated backpacks of groceries for the weekend during an event at the school on Friday, January 13, 2023.  (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

“I’m grateful for that and for taking care of us,” said fourth-grader Jahleah Daniels, 9.

LaVada Taylor, President of the Leeds chapter, identified food insecurity as a pressing problem in the African American community.

She said about 12.5% ​​of children in the US struggle with food insecurity and 19% of them are black children. Poor diet leads to susceptibility to kidney disease and other health conditions, she said.

Leeds, a services group that raises funds for college scholarships, health mentoring initiatives and cultural enrichment activities, has partnered with Baxter Healthcare Company to create an initiative aimed at raising awareness of chronic kidney disease.

The chapter, founded in 1958, also receives grants from Baxter and recently ran the Black KARE (Kidney Awareness Resources and Education) program.

Northern Indiana Left President LaVada Taylor speaks during an event distributing backpacks of weekend meals to students at Frankie Woods McCullough Academy in Gary on Friday, January 13, 2023. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

Taylor said the Links used funds from her Black KARE grant last year to work with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana on the National BackPack program.

Part of the Feeding America network, this program provides healthy, nutritious weekend meals in nondescript bags. They’re stocked with soups, stew cans, breakfast bars, and granola from the Food Bank. Students from other Northwest Indiana schools also participate in the program.

Victor Garcia, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, speaks during an event distributing backpacks of weekend meals to students at Frankie Woods McCullough Academy in Gary on Friday, January 13, 2023. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

Purdue Northwest Provost Christopher Holford said the effort is a good fit for the university.

“Food security remains a barrier to education in our communities,” he said. “It is certainly one of the most important factors influencing educational success and overall educational success.”

Sharmayne McKinley, Principal of the Frankie Woods McCullough Academy, speaks during an event celebrating the distribution of healthy meal backpacks for the weekend on Friday, January 13, 2023. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

Principal Sharmayne McKinley said it was important for her students to see other organizations visiting the school.

“It’s a blessing to see the church come out to help our children,” McKinley said. “We need more people to sow seeds. This pandemic has hurt so many families and they are still struggling.”

Anne Gregory, Dean of Purdue Northwest College for Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, helps distribute backpacks of healthy meals to students at Frankie Woods McCullough Academy in Gary on Friday, January 13, 2023.  (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

Akilia McCain, a member of Links and a Gary School advisory board member, said a big part of a child’s life is being safe and not going hungry.

“These things prepare you for class. If you are hungry you cannot study.”

Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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