Backpack Program Draws Attention – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Backpack Program Draws Attention

A program undertaken by HWS students to help feed elementary students when they are not in school was featured in The Finger Lakes Times.

HWS students, who participated in the conference on poverty and homelessness, joined the national effort to feed America “One Backpack at a Time.” Through the program, Hobart and William Smith students donate food that is given to elementary students to take home on weekends and holidays.  The BackPack Program is designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other resources are not available.

The story titled “HWS students to help feed needy” is below.


HWS students to help feed needy


December 19, 2010

GENEVA – Hobart and William Smith Colleges are setting up an initiative that will help Geneva school children ring in a happier New Year.

For the past few years, North and West Street schools have been helping children in need by way of the Backpack Initiative, a food donation program that supplies kids with staple foods to get them through the weekend.

West Street Home and School Liaison Luisa Dovideo said the food, provided by Foodlink in Rochester, has been in short supply this year.

After hearing a presentation about community efforts to assist a similar program in Penn Yan, Hobart and William Smith students decided they wanted to do the same here.

“Two months ago we organized a conference on poverty and homelessness,” said Alejandra Molina, director of intercultural affairs at the Colleges.

During the conference, George Schaeffer, president of Milly’s Pantry in Penn Yan, talked to students about the non-profits efforts to contribute to the Yates County Backpack Program.

“Schaeffer’s presentation was very powerful,” Molina said. “Students were very impressed.”

Afterwards, she said, several students interested in starting a similar initiative approached her.

Students on campus were asked to contribute needed items like apple sauce, peanut butter, Lunchables, fruit cups, macaroni and cheese, juice boxes, canned meals and snack packs.

Molina said that while the HWS program is still in the planning phases, she hopes to deliver the donation to West Street School in January.

She said she is hopeful that the initiative will gain momentum and may even be expanded in the spring to include school supply donations.

“The need is definitely there,” she said. “We have a good number of families, of course, that are in need.”

She added, “It would be a wonderful collaboration with the Colleges, with the students, or with the community members.”

Dovideo said North and West Street schools have been participating in the Backpack Initiative for three years.

“We’re receiving food [this year], but the bags don’t have as much,” she said.

The program once delivered a bag of food to in-need children on a weekly basis. But West Street Principal Nina McCarthy said Foodlink told the school at the start of the year that there would not be enough food to distribute to Geneva.

In October, Foodlink was able to start making deliveries to the schools, but only on a bi-weekly basis.

“It definitely impacts students, they look forward to getting it and taking it home,” McCarthy said.

Eligibility for the program is based on the schools free and reduced lunch program and parental permission, Dovideo said.

“The program is very important,” she said. “The little ones, they’ll come and ask me, “Is this the week for the backpack?”

The food is generally given only to elementary students because middle school and high school students are more conscious of the social stigma that comes from needing to take home food.

“The younger children are more likely to bring the food home, and they’re not embarrassed,” she said.

The school cannot accept donations directly from the public, but donations to the Geneva Center of Concern and the Salvation Army would reach the same families, Dovideo said.