provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Fighting childhood hunger is a key focus in the array of food programs offered by FISH of SANCAP. The Backpack Program provides nutritious, kid-friendly supplemental food and snacks for children all year long, even during school breaks. Students receive easy-to-prepare meals, which are nutritious and great tasting, on a weekly basis. Organic and vegetarian choices are also available.
FISH began a supplemental ‘fresh meal’ add-on to the backpack program last year to provide a well-balanced meal kit families can easily prepare and enjoy together. The program aims to encourage families to spend time together and relieve some stress with at least one planned meal each week. The fresh meal includes a kid-friendly recipe with all the necessary ingredients. Preparing a meal can teach some important life skills, such as planning, organization, appreciation and cooking.
Throughout the year, FISH staff often plans monthly meal themes from Asian cuisine to healthy twists on American classics and plant-based meals. Studies have shown good nutrition, including in the early years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation for a child’s future physical and mental health, as well as academic achievement.
“Over the last few years we have seen a large increase in requests to participate in the Backpack Program due to the additional strain the COVID pandemic put on food-insecure families,” said Executive Director Maria Espinoza.
In 2021, FISH distributed 4,294 food backpacks to children, an increase of 118 percent over 2020. The program is available to any child, from pre-kindergarten through seniors in high school, whose family has an island connection – living or working on Sanibel or Captiva. Due to the dramatic increase in participating families and need for food, FISH has doubled the amount of food provided each week.
“The Kiwanis Club of Sanibel and Captiva, AngelFISH Society and Community Foundation have been incredible in providing FISH with funding for the Backpack Program,” said Espinoza. “Thanks to them, we can continue to provide additional food in the backpacks, as well as the ingredients and recipe cards for a fresh, health, and kid-friendly meal.”
Parents pick up the food bags from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday to Friday at the FISH Walk-In Center, 2430-B Periwinkle Way. For anyone interested in participating in the program, contact FISH at 239-472-4775.
For additional information about FISH programs and services, contact Espinoza at the above phone number or visit the FISH website.