Stanton fights childhood hunger at elementary school event

Thousands of Arizona schoolchildren get help from federal programs that provide free or reduced lunches. Nevitt Elementary School in south Phoenix knows the programs all too well: more than 85 percent of the students depend on the food assistance.

Nevitt teamed with a national child hunger relief program, Blessings in A Backpack, seven years ago. The program makes sure students don’t have food just on school days but weekends too.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton attended the second annual Blessings in A Backpack Day on Thursday.

“To make sure these kids do have healthy meals on the weekends … it allows those kids to come Monday morning to school ready to learn,” Stanton said. “They really are our future leaders.”

Nevitt has weekly backpack stuffing, and about 500 children take food home each weekend.

Students stuff fellow students’ packs with food like cereal, soup, fruit and crackers.

Principal Andrew Lebowitz said that on top of fighting hunger the students learn valuable lessons.

“We do have some of our students with various needs that help every day … definitely learn appreciation and learning how to help one another,” Lebowitz said.

Stanton acknowledged that Phoenix has one of the nation’s highest rates of childhood hunger but said as a community residents can do little things like Blessings in a Backpack to change that.

“They are going to overcome these challenges and go on to great things in their lives and careers,” Stanton said. “We can say we helped a little bit early in their lives by doing wonderful programs like this.”