By Kanisha Madison
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Most students take home books on the weekend, but some students at Eastway Elementary School in Northeast Central Durham are taking home something extra – on Friday about 50 students receive a backpack filled with food that will help them get through the weekend without going hungry.
Each Thursday afternoon volunteers pack about 10 pounds of food each for the students. The food includes mac and cheese, ravioli, canned vegetables, soup, juices and healthy snack items such as granola bars, crackers and raisins.
The three-year-old Weekend Backpack program partners with the Foodbank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. It is spearheaded by Communities in Schools program specialist Elizabeth Levene. The non-profit’s motto: “Helping Kids Stay in School and Prepare for Life.”
“For me it is a saving grace for these families in hard economic times,” said Eastway school principal Star Sampson. “Families really appreciate this program.”
According to information provided by CIS, the program delivers about 22,000 pounds of food each school year. Over 90 percent of the students reported that they shared the food with other family members and about 75 percent of parents said that they program helped improve their child’s health.
Ninety-seven percent of Eastway students receive free or reduced cost lunches.
“Kids have to have food in order to do good in school and life,” said Levene. “Students will do well in class when they’ve eat.”
Helping CIS volunteers this Thursday were employees from Wyeth Pharmaceutical, a company located in the Research Triangle Park. Wyeth also ran a food drive for the program.
Other corporations, churches and civic groups also raise food for this program by having food drives or coming to the school to donate their time to pack these backpacks.
The backpacks were donated by Bayercrop Science at the beginning of the school year.
There are similar programs at E.K. Powe Elementary and Club Boulevard Elementary schools.
According to Levene “everything counts” and donation are appreciated.
Volunteers meet at 2:15-3:00 on Thursday afternoons in the Eastway cafeteria to fill the backpacks in the school’s cafeteria. For more information contact Elizabeth Levene at 919-403-1936 or Elizabeth@cisdurham.org.