A year-long effort to provide families in the Northeastern School District with food gets an extra boost over the holiday season.
Sue Howe, a guidance counselor at York Haven Elementary school, started a program a few years ago to send children from the school home with backpacks full of food to provide those children and their families with food over the weekends.
The program has since expanded to the Conewago and Orendorf elementary schools, and Howe said she hopes to start the program at Mount Wolf next year.
Howe said there is a special focus over the Christmas and Easter holidays to send additional food home with students so they have enough to eat during the longer school breaks.
Howe said families can apply for the backpack program if they qualify for the free or reduced lunch programs.
About 170 students leave with a backpack of food each weekend, and those families were given the option to pick up a box of food Tuesday for the Christmas holiday. Howe said 115 families chose to take a box for the holiday season.
Howe said the program at the schools receives donations from residents at the Country Meadows retirement community in Leader Heights, who have donated about $14,000 toward the project since 2011.
Howe ordered five-pound bags of potatoes, canned fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, cereal and other foodstuffs from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to fill the boxes. Howe is also trying to put granola bars and similar snacks in the boxes.
"Sometimes the granola bar is the lunch for the child," Howe said.
Howe said the boxes allow her to give each family items that typically are limited by the backpack weight: Normally she would only allow one can of soup or vegetables and personal-sized juices to go home on a child's back. With the boxes, she said, she can include multiple cans and the 64-ounce. versions of juice.