Niagara School District's Badger Backpacks helps out families in need

NIAGARA, Wisc. (WLUC) - The shelves in the Badger Backpack closet are stocked full of food and clothing items, and for good reason.

"We provide meals on weekends and long holidays for families who need a little bit extra support so in addition to helping those families get extra food on the weekends they don't have to worry about what bills they're gonna pay or paying an extra heating bill because they know we've got them covered for the weekend," said Sarah Zychowski, a Paraprofessional with the Niagara School Distrcit and the Founder of the Badger Backpack Program.

"Parents don't have to worry whether they're going to get food for that weekend, or students don't have to worry about that, which of course carries over into the classroom. We have less anxiety. We have less stress. They're nutritious meals, so that all goes hand in hand with learning and academic performance," said Terry Hanson, Director of Pupil Services.

Badger Backpacks got its start in the 2016-2017 school year and provides enough food for however long school is not in session.

"We started last year with two breakfasts, two lunches, a snack and then a fruit or a vegetable depending on how many days we're out of school and then at the beginning of this year we decided to put a book in each bag," said Zychowski.

Those bags that go home with the 52 students in the program also helps with classroom functioning.

"There's definitely a correlation between students with poverty and academic performance and nutrition and academic performance, so we want to enhance that nutrition aspect as best that we can, so we can know that kids that have nutritious meals over the weekend. They're able to come back and focus better in the classroom," said Hanson.

Those students taking home that bag for the weekend are not the only ones benefitting from the Badger Backpacks Program.

"Our special education program, they go shopping every week for us, so it's very cool so they learn a lot of budgeting, learning coupons, finding what the best deals of the week are and then they stock our shelves for us, too," said Zychowski.

Right now the program serves kids grades K through 6th and anyone K-12 is welcome to fill out an application to receive help.

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