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Weekend Backpack Food Program

Weekend Backpack Food Program

Annual Income for Federal Poverty Level

(based on family of four): $26,200

Percent living in poverty:

Athol: 17%
Gardner: 19%

Children considered economically disadvantaged:

Economically disadvantaged: 47.7%
High need: 58.4%

Economically disadvantaged: 53.9%
High need: 63.1%

98% report worrying that their food will run out before they get money to buy more.

96% reported they could not afford to eat balanced meals.

Stuffing Backpacks

In the North Central and North Quabbin regions, approximately 25% of food-insecure households reported their insufficient access to food was frequent or chronic.

Living in an area with such high percentages of food insecurity and poverty, we felt an immediate home-grown solution was necessary, so Heywood Healthcare partnered with the Gardner and Athol-Orange Rotary Club’s to launch the Weekend Backpack Food Program in 2015 in 3rd and 4th grade classrooms in the Athol/Royalston and Gardner School Districts.

Now, the Weekend Backpack Food Program supports over 400 youth and their families with nutritious, non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food choices over the weekend. A backpack full of family sized food items is distributed to the participating students as they leave school on Friday for the weekend. The backpack food items provided help to supplement what families have at home.

Backpack programs provide more than just food – they bring a sense of security to students and their families.

It costs just $5 per week to send a student home with a backpack full of nutritious food for the weekend, and we cannot do it without your support.

For more information about the Weekend Backpack Food Program, please contact Dawn Casavant, Vice President of Development & Chief Philanthropy Officer for Heywood Healthcare at 978-630-6431 or [email protected]. You can also make a donation directly to the program by visiting