Blessings in a Backpack adapts to fit the needs of the communities it serves

Blessings in a Backpack adapts to fit the needs of the communities it serves

Syracuse, New York

Since Blessings in a Backpack started a program in Syracuse in 2019, as with many schools nationwide, a significant need was evident, across the district, Blessings served 100 children each weekend for just about four years.

But this was just the beginning. At the end of 2022 and the start of this year, a more extreme need revealed itself. Across the country, grocery store prices began to rise drastically. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) policy, which helped families make ends meet during the pandemic, was revoked in March 2023. This policy had kept countless families afloat during a time of uncertainty, and without it, more children were struggling with food insecurity.

These issues exacerbated childhood hunger in Syracuse. In this school year alone, the community has seen 2,000 families become homeless. The number of students needing weekend food increased from 100 to nearly 850.

“When I come around with the food packs, there are at least five kids every time who say, ‘Can I be added to the program? I really need it.’ So you know, they love it, they look forward to it every week. It’s kid-friendly but also healthy food.” said Patty Sawmiller, a Syracuse School District community school supervisor who oversees the Blessing program.

A call to action was made to the community, asking local families and companies to give what they could to offset the increased costs of adding more children to the local Blessings in a Backpack program. The collaborative effort paid off, and more than $38,000 was donated by supporters in the area to feed kids. When faced with what looked like an insurmountable obstacle, Blessings in a Backpack in Syracuse was poised to rally the community around its greatest asset—its children.