Vigo County schools are gearing up to provide hundreds of bags of groceries to students over the holiday break.
It’s part of their participation in a backpack program that provides roughly 1,300 bags of sustainable food every weekend from Aug. 1 through June 1.
Susan Eisman is the creator of the backpack program. She started it in 2011 after realizing some of her students weren’t being fed. She says one in four students in Vigo County lives in poverty.
“I’d been teaching over 30 years at that time, and I just never thought that they just didn’t have food over the weekends,” she says. “It just never really dawned on me.”
The supplies for the backpacks are either donated or bought using donations. Eisman says hunger can be caused by factors other than poverty.
“We often have a situation where parents have stopped parenting or they’re going through a very difficult time,” she says.
She says the number of backpacks provided depends on the socioeconomic makeup of the area.
“So it’s varied. Some of our elementary schools I would say 90 percent ask for and receive the backpack. And in other schools it’s very small,” she says.
The program has expanded to 28 facilities – including schools and teaching centers in Indianapolis, Rockville and Clay County. It’s offered to all students ranging from elementary to high school, regardless of their economic situations.