PORTAGE | Last school year, 133 Portage Township Schools students went home each Friday with enough food to provide them with sustenance for the weekend.
This year, officials are hoping that number climbs to 500.
Assistant Superintendent Mary Tracy-MacAulay told the School Board last week that they are hoping to grow the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana's backpack program this year.
The program provides school-age children with six meals and two snacks each Friday. They also receive meals to get them through school breaks. A $200 donation provides weekend and school break food for 40 weeks.
Portage schools adopted the program after one teacher saw the need. More than 50 percent of Portage students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.
In Portage, the program started by serving 10 children at one elementary school, said MacAuley. The community, churches and Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce became involved, collecting donations to sponsor additional children.
Now all eight elementary schools and two middle schools are involved in the program and MacAuley hopes to expand it to the high school.
This year district teachers can opt for a payroll deduction to help support the program.
Residents also can donate by picking up a form at any school or the administration office. Donations can also be mailed, by check made out to the Food Bank of NWI, with Portage backpack written in the memo line, to Portage Backpack Program, Attention: Student Sponsorship, 6161 Old Porter Road, Portage, IN 46368.