I see that Shenendehowa does a big push for it’s Back Pack Program. Why is it that the food that is given in these backpacks is expired and not enough to get them through the weekend, which it is meant for? You are paying this food bank to provide our children with food that is no longer good and should be thrown away. Why not allow your schools to go shopping at Walmart, or Market 32 with a 10 for $10.00 sale and be able to provide these student and their family food for the weekend?

Written by on December 20, 2019

A. Expiration Date

Thank you for your question, we know there can be confusion about “expiration” dates.  Please know that the food that is purchased from the Food Bank and is sent home with the students in the program is safe to eat.  The Food Bank follows federal and food industry guidelines for food safety and is regulated by multiple organizations (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets, Albany County Dept. of Health, NYS Department of Health, Homeland Security,  AIB International).

There can be confusion about what a “sell by”, “best by” or “expiration” date means.  Both the team at Shenendehowa, and the Regional Food Bank Backpack Program leadership have carefully reviewed and discussed these stamped terms and we are comfortable that the items in the menu created by the Food Bank are good. Please see the attached document for more information on food dating practices.  As you can see, non-perishable food in intact containers is good well past any date a manufacturer may stamp on the package.

 

Since the food is purchased for the program from the Food Bank many weeks ahead, it is stocked and then packed each week.  The group packing these items reviews dates as best they can, and then the teams at the individual schools also takes note of any dates they see as they are assembling the backpacks.  If any of these backpack helpers feels that an item or date is an issue, they know to remove the item and not send it home.  (The only other date that may appear to be an issue could be on a loaf of bread that has been previously frozen.  If we receive a significant amount of extra bread, some schools freeze bread so they will be able to provide extra to families in future weeks.)

 

Food Quantity

Each week, participating students receive:
• 2 breakfast items:  examples include cereal (sometimes single serving box, other times large standard size box), oatmeal packets, graham crackers, box of pancake mix and syrup, etc.
• 3 entrees:  examples include can of soup, PB &J, mac & cheese, tuna, Spaghetti Os, canned chicken, pound of pasta with small can of sauce, etc.

  • Snack item (granola bars, protein bars, pretzels)
    • Loaf of bread
    • Fruit (weekly from the Food Bank, but also once a month we receive additional donated fruit from a non-profit local organization (To Love A Child)
  • Milk card for a gallon of milk (distributed in the backpack every other week, but intended to last the student longer than just the first weekend)
  • Egg card for a dozen eggs (distributed in the backpack every other week, but intended to last the student longer than just first weekend)
  • Canned vegetables once a month

 

This food is intended to feed each individual student in the program on Saturday and Sunday, and the cost we reimburse to the Food Bank is $6.10 per student per week.  This low cost is possible because the Food Bank is buying items in bulk and on sale (getting incredible pricing) and also providing us with some amount of donated food for which they do not pass on a cost to us.

 

The Food Bank puts careful thought into planning weekend menus balancing many important factors such as nutrition, ability for young students to transport the food in a backpack, shelf stability, ability for students to prepare the food, and cost of the items.  As we pack the non-perishable items in bags it can sometimes feel like it is not enough, but once we add the loaf of bread and the apple and remember that students get Stewart’s cards redeemable for the dozen eggs and the gallon of milk (which would mean the addition of 6 eggs, and a half a gallon of milk each weekend.)  As far as shopping at grocery stores for food for the program, we accept donations of food to add to the bags.  Many schools also hold food drives so they can supplement and add food to these backpacks whenever possible.

We genuinely appreciate your concern for these students welfare.

We recognize  that the menu is not always perfect , but we can assure you that much care, time and attention is paid to what is sent home for these students backpacks.  It is through the support and effort of so many in our Shen community that this food gets to these students each week.  We all work hard to make sure all financial and time donations are not taken for granted and are used in every possible way to help these students as efficiently and as effectively as possible.