(L/R) Margaret Mackay, Lincolnwood PTA co-president, Nicole Marks, Haven PTA co-president, Mayor Steve Hagerty, Blessings in a Backpack co-chairs, Tara Norris,and Shelley Weiss, Louisa Plotikin Ricker, social worker Lincolnwood School, KathyRoberson, Principal Haven Middle School, Disrtict 65 Superintendent, Paul Goren, andNancy Marshall, Haven PTA co-president.Submitted photo

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Mayors across the country last month worked with local volunteers to pack bags full of food for hungry students to take home.

Mayor Steve Hagerty joined volunteers to stuff backpacks full of food for local schoolchildren as part of “Blessings in a Backpack Day” at Haven Middle School, aiding in the distribution of food for students at both Haven and Lincolnwood Schools. Mayor Hagerty was one of many mayors across the country that participated in this fourth annual event, as a result of a resolution passed at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in June 2015. Today, nearly 70% of children in the U.S. are on the federal free and reduced price National School Lunch Program, totaling nearly 31 million students. This federal program provides food for these students during the week, but most of them have a difficult time obtaining food during the weekends. This is where Blessings in a Backpack comes in.

“Through Blessings in a Backpack, our entire community – schools, organizations and community members – has had the opportunity to work together and improve the lives of our children by simply sending them home with food for the weekend,” said Shelley Weiss and Tara Norris, the Blessings in a Backpack project coordinators at Haven Middle School. “Hunger should not be a worry or challenge for today’s youth, and it is important that, as a community, we do everything we can to feed them. We have seen the direct and powerful impact that this program has on the students, as well as the families and school as a whole.”

In Evanston schools more than150 students benefit from the Blessings in a Backpack program. Each week, volunteers and school personnel pack bags full of food for students. School social workers at the schools distribute them for the students to take home with them over the weekend. Blessings in a Backpack currently provides nearly 3.2 million hunger-free weekends to approximately 93,000 children in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

For more information about Blessings in a Backpack and how to get involved, please visit blessingsinabackpack.org.

It is because of committed volunteers, strong PTAs, dedicated school personnel and the support of Dr. Goren and Mayor Hagerty that Evanston has taken a step in the right direction to feed future generations.