(Oakland County), Mich. – Mar 28, 2017 – This winter, Genisys Credit Union is partnering with The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s Backpack Program to provide nourishment to students of the Elmer Knopf Learning Center, located in Flint and operated by the Genesee Intermediate School District. Over $8,000 in donations were provided by the Genisys staff and its members, helping to feed approximately 100 students. The students of Elmer Knopf are coordinating the effort with a team of leaders comprised of staff and students to oversee the project, giving students valuable real-life work experience.
The Backpack Program partnership is a part of Genisys Credit Union’s Making a Difference Campaign, an effort focused on assisting local communities throughout Michigan. The Making a Difference Campaign contributed over $125,000 to charities in 2016, while devoting over 4,500 volunteer hours.
“Making sure children have proper nutrition is integral to their development,” says Genisys Credit Union President and CEO, Jackie Buchanan. “The youth and young adults are the building blocks of our society, supporting them helps to strengthen the community both now and for the future.”
The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s Backpack Program provides students receiving free or reduced priced lunches with nutritious food to be taken home on weekends. Each weekend backpack contains two breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. The program began in 2004 with 50 backpacks in 2 elementary schools but has expanded to over 8,200 children in more than 160 schools throughout 22 counties in Eastern Michigan. The cost to provide one student with a weekend backpack for the entire year is $100.
Sponsorship and Project Manager of The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Kathleen Payton, credits community figures for the success of the program, “The Backpack Program is growing and it all starts with concerned community leaders, teachers and businesses recognizing the relationship between proper nutrition and the ability to perform at school.”
While the program has been a great success, the need for assistance still remains. There are 24,000 children who are food insecure in Genesee County alone; the Backpack Program currently has enough funding to provide for 2,000 students.
The Elmer Knopf Learning Center, located in Flint, is a special needs learning center that provides schooling to students identified as moderately cognitively impaired and autism spectrum disorder. The school, built in 1973, has seen an enrollment increase to over 350 students in recent years. One of the main objectives within the school is to help prepare students for the workforce after the completion of their program.
The staff of the Elmer Knopf Learning Center wanted to utilize The Backpack Program as a tool to train students with skills that will benefit them in the workforce post-graduation. The Elmer Knopf Backpack Team consists of staff representatives from each department within the school, two social workers and student representatives. The team will oversee operations within the program, as bags are constructed and distributed by secondary and adult students to enhance employability skills. The students will be learning to follow checklists, sort and pack food, and make deliveries to classrooms, all valuable tools that will assist with future employment.