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Belle River Kicks Off Weekend Food Program

Posted on April 22, 2010

imageBill Westerhof, 5th grade teacher at Belle River Elementary School in Marine City, has spent his career helping kids succeed in the classroom. In April, after a year of planning, he launched a program designed to impact at-risk student’s attendance, reduce behavior issues and increase their attention span. Mr. Westerhof explained that “More and more students from low income families are coming to school on Monday hungry. We can feed them breakfast and lunch during the week, but many have little or no food on the weekends.” Mr. Westerhof is excited to have found a way to break that cycle with the Blessings in a Backpack program.

“Students who participate in the Blessings in a Backpack program show marked improvement in school attendance, test scores, behavior, and health. Food is an essential building block, and in this case truly is a blessing, especially to a hungry child!” said Cheryl Whitton, Chairperson for the Michigan Blessings in a Backpack Advisory Board. She continued “Every Friday, kids that participate in the program get backpacks filled with easy-to-prepare and ready-to-eat food. On Monday, the kids return the backpacks, ready to learn. Then the cycle begins the next Friday.”

imageWomen’s Initiative member and former teacher Marge Guinther helps fill backpacks with food at Belle River. She knows first hand the impact hunger has on students and commented that “kids can not pay attention in class when all they hear is their stomach growling.”

The Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Board and Women’s Initiative funded the Friday food program, Blessings in a Backpack, at Belle River Elementary for the remainder of this school year. Both groups also awarded grants to continue the program and have allocated $5,000 that will be used to match donations ($.50 on the $1) for the program during the Community Foundation’s Match Day on June 2, 2010.

Food is purchased in bulk so it only takes $100 to provide a low income student with a backpack full of food every Friday. Join Bill Westerhof, YAC and the Women’s Initiative on their quest to help feed at-risk kids by sponsoring one or more children for a school year. During Match Day 2010, a $400 donation will provide 6 at-risk kids with a backpack full of food every Friday for a year. Watch for details on Match Day 2010 in early May.

Congratulations to Bill Westerhof and Belle River Elementary School in Marine City for going above and beyond to help at-risk kids succeed!
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