United Way of Porter County has awarded up to $100,000 to Valparaiso Schools’ Backpacks and Snacks program to help meet the growing need to feed hungry students on the weekends.

The program provides weekend meals to students and their younger siblings in an effort to combat food insecurity and the impact it has on physical, social, emotional and academic growth.

“Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, we found that we were helping more students than ever before,” said Erin Hawkins, Valparaiso Community Schools Director of Social Emotional Learning. “We needed an extra boost to help sustain the program and meet the higher demand. We can’t thank United Way and their generous donors enough for stepping in to help.”

In the last year, demand for help has nearly doubled to an average of 350 participants per week. Meal kits include a variety of food items to cover all weekend meals. Over the course of the school year, they will distribute around 12,600 meal kits.

Valparaiso’s Backpacks United grant award will help with food purchase and distribution now through July 2022.

“Children who go to school hungry are unable to concentrate and miss out on valuable learning experiences,” said Kim Olesker, President and CEO of United Way of Porter County. “With Backpacks United, like many of our programs, we can help meet the need.”

United Way is working with several school feeding programs to ensure support is available across Porter County to meet the growing need. Backpacks United funds are available to existing and new Porter County school weekend feeding programs. For more information and to donate, visit unitedwaypc.org/backpacks-united.