Every kidsPACK backpack contains 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners. We want to make sure every kidsPACK can feed a child over the weekend, but what food we put in the backpacks is just as important as how much.
But how do we choose what food to distribute?
There are many schools of thought when it comes to child nutrition. We could spend days listening to experts debate the pros and cons of every set of guidelines. We understand the concern – we all want to ensure kids have safe, nutritious food.
At the end of the day, our goal is to provide regular meals for as many kids in need as possible. To accomplish this, we’ve adopted a set of standards for foods we pack.
All food in kidsPACKs is kid-friendly, school-approved, non-perishable, and ready to eat. A young child can feed themselves for an entire weekend without access to a kitchen or assistance from an adult.
We don’t know what circumstances kidsPACK kids go home to. They may have no power, live in a car, or move constantly from relative to relative. Conveniences we take for granted – such as microwaves and refrigerators – are often out of reach for these children.
In order to feed these kids, we need to provide them with food which can be eaten no matter what the circumstances. Foods which require refrigeration or cooking may become inaccessible to a child at any time.
Once in a while, we’ll get a question from a well-meaning person something along the lines of: “Why not provide fresh fruits and vegetables instead of packaged foods?”
While nutritious, unpackaged products have a limited window for consumption. If a child doesn’t eat an apple within a few days, that apple will rot. Other fruits and vegetables are even more susceptible to spoilage without refrigeration – and many children we serve do not have access to a refrigerator.
We plan for the worst, but sometimes kidsPACK kids are fortunate enough to get extra meals over the weekend. If that’s the case, providing them with non-perishable foods allows them to save extra food for the week ahead.
Pre-packaged, brand-name foods are safe and familiar. Even when hungry, kids may have aversions to unfamiliar foods, and may not trust or consume these foods. Any food a hungry child turns down is a missed opportunity to get that child the nutrition they need to get through the day. We can’t afford to take risks by putting unfamiliar flavors and textures in Kids Packs.
In a perfect world, every kid would come home to a fresh, nutritious, delicious home cooked meal on the table. But until we get there, kidsPACK is going to do the best we can with the resources we have to feed as many children as possible.
kidsPACK food is approved by participating schools. We include fruits, proteins, vegetables, and whole grains in forms which make nutritious food as accessible to those who need it most. Each pack features a variety of foods so children will consume all essential vitamins and minerals throughout the weekend.
So what foods meet the kidsPACK criteria?
- Cheese or peanut butter crackers
- Beef jerky
- Fruit cups
- Granola bars
- Power bars
- Cereal bars
- Single serving Chef-Boy-R-Dee items
- Single serving soups (with pull tab openings)
- Ramen noodles
- Tomato juice
- Packaged nuts
- Trail mix
- Fruit snacks
- Dried fruits
- Peanut butter
- Any kind of pasta
- Spaghetti sauce
- Canned vegetables and fruit (with pull top openings)
- Macaroni and cheese
- Individually packaged chips/pretzels/Goldfish
- Boxed drinks and juices
- Vienna sausages (with pull top lids)
- Pop tarts
- Individual packets of oatmeal
- Plastic spoons
- Gallon-size ziplock bags
- Canned Tuna
- Bags of rice or beans
Now that you know why we choose our kidsPACK foods, please consider lending a hand by donating or volunteering. Together, we can feed kids and make a difference in our community.