Blessings in a Backpack partners with Sysco nationally to provide the food our programs serve. Through the Sysco network of distribution centers, we are able to offer a variety of nutritional, “kid-friendly” food options for our weekend food, including both case goods (aka “Line Item Menus”) and prepackaged bags of ready-to-eat food (aka “Weekend Food Packs”). Food solutions offered through the national program at Blessings in a Backpack are carefully selected to ensure that we are providing the best nutrition possible for the money spent on food.
By partnering with Sysco and several key manufacturers in a National Food Solution, we are able to get preferred pricing on the items we purchase. As a result, each Blessings program benefits from the combined volume of the entire Blessings network, regardless of size. Companies like Kellogg, Conagra, StarKist, and others share the Blessings vision and support Blessings in many ways.
Why Doesn’t Blessings Just Get Food Donated?
Typically, donated food comes from manufacturer’s excess inventory and may be approaching the expiration date. In order to ensure consistent availability of products that meet Blessings in a Backpack’s nutrition and “kid-friendly” requirements, purchasing food is the most reliable approach. Note, however, that we receive “preferred” pricing from the selected food manufacturers such as Kellogg’s and Conagra because they believe in the Blessings program. That means we get even better pricing than what the standard distributor pricing would be.
What is Your Criteria for Selecting the Food You Serve?
We consider many factors: nutritional value, appropriateness for the children we feed, long-term availability, cost, ease of opening, portion size, shelf life, and variety. Our menu items are evaluated by a registered dietitian committed to providing healthy options that are low in sodium and sugar, made with whole grains, and are good protein sources.
Since many of the children we serve may not have access to conveniences like working appliances or a can opener, our menus must contain ready-to-eat foods. Our foods also do not require refrigeration, require little to no preparation, and are peanut-free.
Why Do Meals Feature Items Like Kellogg’s Froot Loops and Apple Jacks? Aren’t Those High in Sugar?
Blessings in a Backpack works with a national food distributor and manufacturers that focus on meeting USDA standards for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Because of these partnerships, we have access to products that typically aren’t available in retail grocery stores.
Our prepacked menus contain only items that meet the strict USDA standards. For example, 51 percent whole-grain bread and cereal products and food items that are lower in sodium, fat, and sugar. In addition, K-12 Education manufacturers, like Kellogg’s and Jack Links, produce products specifically to meet USDA nutrition standards not made available through retail.
Because of the increased nutritional value, Blessings in a Backpack can feature varieties of cereals that are tasty when eaten out of the bowl. Unfortunately, we can’t assume the children we serve have access to milk at home.