Glenwood Elementary backpack program continues with contributions

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WILDWOOD – To some students at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School, a full backpack means not going hungry over the weekend.
Thanks to an anticipated donation of $5,000 from the local Mustard Seed organization in January, Glenwood Avenue Elementary School Principal John Kummings said the backpack program will be able to help more students.

With the city listed as having the highest rate of child poverty in the state, according to the 2011 U.S. Census, the school district uses as many federal programs as it can.
Almost every child at the school is eligible for the federally subsidized free and reduced-fee meal program, so the elementary school offers it free to all children and about 90 percent show up early each day, school officials said.
However, the backpack program is made possible through donations and grants.  
The Wildwood Board of Education has a backpack program for the district’s neediest students, said Superintendent Anderson.
“These are kids that might not have food to get them through the weekend,” Anderson said.
According to the Wildwood Board of Education, the program started with a grant from Chartwells Food Service and resources from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
“It doesn’t cost the district anything,” Anderson said.
 The program works by identifying children who are not getting sufficient food outside of school on a regular basis.
Then they are given a small backpack stocked with shelf-stable items such as macaroni and cheese, corn flakes, apple juice, milk or canned fruit. Additional backpacks can be provided if there are other children in the home who are also identified as chronically hungry.
The program is designed for children in grades Pre-K through eight. Staff members must refer a child into the program, and parents must sign a permission slip indicating they will permit their child to participate.
 “A hungry child is not focusing on learning,” Anderson said. “Some children come to us on Monday morning not having had a full meal all weekend.”
School board member Todd Kenninger told the board that he had worked on a toy drive with Cindy Fritz, the school nurse at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School.
Kenninger said the drive can “really open your eyes to how some of the students live.
“It is amazing that the kids do as well as they do and score anything on all these state tests considering the conditions that some of them have to live in,” he said.
“We’re extremely lucky to have the staff that we do that cares so much about these kids,” Kenninger said.

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