Mexico: Weekend feeding – Alimento para Todos Backpack Program
Mexico City is the population and economic center of Mexico. However, many of its residents live below the poverty line. As of 2018, just over 25 percent of households in Mexico City were severely food insecure, and another 25 percent were mildly or moderately food insecure. Households facing food insecurity have less diverse diets and purchase more processed, calorie-dense foods instead of vegetables and fruits.
Mexico’s government runs a nationwide school breakfast program for approximately 95 percent of school-age children who are enrolled in school. On weekends, however, some students do not receive steady meals at home or must resort to eating unbalanced meals. These children return to school hungry, which causes school performance to suffer.
Alimento para Todos (APT), an urban food bank in Mexico City and a member of Bancos de Alimentos de México (the national network of food banks in Mexico), has provided food assistance for over 25 years. APT developed a program aimed at bridging the meal gap on weekends. The backpack program, which fills backpacks with healthy foods each weekend during the school year, aims to improve the nutrition status of children and empower them to do better in school and lead healthy lives.
The backpacks contain rice, beans, milk, canned tuna, fruits, and occasional treats like cookies and school supplies. The food in the backpacks provides approximately four meals for the child and three additional family members over the weekend. Over the 2018–19 school year, the backpack program fed 402 children and their families. The program was expanded in the 2019–20 school year to reach 452 children.
Over the 2018–19 school year, the Backpack Program fed 402 children and their families.
In addition to food packs, the program provides other benefits. The food bank conducts nutritional and health assessments for the children enrolled in the program to identify any child who might be nutritionally at risk and in need of special attention or follow-up. APT also provides 18 training sessions a year for parents, caretakers, children, and staff at beneficiary organizations on topics like nutrition, hygiene standards and proper food preparation, and the importance of physical activity.
Due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, APT began working with community groups to distribute backpacks to the children and their families. APT provides backpacks to leaders of the community group and these leaders work with mothers and caretakers to distribute them to the families. APT has had to suspend all training sessions while quarantine and movement restrictions are in place.