Nevitt Elementary fights to fix childhood hunger

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton during Blessings in a Backpack day at Nevitt Elementary School. (Photo by Jade Fraizer)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton during Blessings in a Backpack day at Nevitt Elementary School. (Photo by Jade Fraizer)

It’s the national day of the year for giving out “blessings in a backpack” to students at Nevitt Elementary School, as Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joins staff and volunteers in the second-annual Blessings in a Backpack Day.

Blessings in a Backpack is a 501 C (3) non-profit organization that provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program, with a backpack full of nutritional food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year.

The backpacks include foods like granola bars, juice boxes, mac and cheese and oatmeal.

Mayor Stanton volunteers with Blessing in a Backpack once a year in which he said it is a “personal passion” of his to do so.

“The reality is the free and reduced lunch programs do a great job during the school week, but during the weekends and intercessions…it’s a problem,” Mayor Stanton said.

The school staff and volunteers said that whether it is known or unknown our country is faced with the problem of childhood hunger.

“The issues are with the kids at home who might not have a refrigerator full of food at home and it is our job to fill that gap,” Mayor Stanton said.

The goal that Mayor Stanton said he would like to achieve at some point is to have less families in our society eligible for free-reduced programs.

Nevitt Elementary has a very high poverty average, according to officials.

(Photo by Jade Frazier)

(Photo by Jade Frazier)

“This is not just about their health but it’s also about coming to school ready to learn,” he said.

Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, and lower IQ, according to officials.

“We are the greatest country in the world with a great economy, but even here we have these problems and it seems to be getting worse not better,” Mayor Stanton said.

Mayor Stanton said he enjoys the program and the kids are just “so cute.”

Principal Andrew Lebowitz was excited for the day as he said that the program has benefited the Nevitt community in a major way.

“Our school and community really relies on this program and the kids really appreciate it,” Mr. Lebowitz said.

This will be the seventh year of participation for Nevitt and now the staff can productively give out backpacks to the entire school in approximately 30 minutes.

The school sees 500 kids every week including a multitude returning families.

“The mission of the organization is to provide kids with food every weekend,” Mr. Lebowitz said.

Nevitt also collaborates with other schools within the community in hopes of what they said will help give out as much food as possible and combat hunger.

Mr. Lebowitz said he is grateful for the school’s relationship with the contributing organizations.

One of the contributing partners who donate to Blessings in a Backpack in Phoenix is the host of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, The Thunderbirds.

“We are very happy to help sponsor Blessings in a Backpack,” Thunderbird member Danny Calihan said.

The proceeds from the Waste Management Phoenix Open Golf Tournament are donated to the community and this year they will top over $100 million dollars of all-time giving.

“We have committed plus or minus $150 thousand dollars over the last 6 years and going forward will donate $20,000 each year,” Mr. Calihan said.

With over 550,000 Phoenix Open fans the success of the golf tournament allows the organization to effectively make money and give back to the community.

“We have signed up for three more years,” Mr. Calihan said. “It is a worthy and great program.”

Ms. Frazier is a student journalist at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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