Ridge kids send Blessings In A Backpack to fellow schoolchildren

April 17, 2014 Editorial Staff
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Every week, Theresa Monforte sends students home with food they receive in a brand new backpack. The Bay Ridgeite is project coordinator at P.S. 102 of Blessings in a Backpack, a non-profit organization that feeds over 63,000 children in 583 schools in 45 U.S. states. But, Monforte is a blessing herself to those she helps.

Blessings in a Backpack provides elementary schoolchildren, who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program, with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. The Backpack food comprises non-perishable, easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly food — such as granola bars, juice boxes, mac and cheese, and oatmeal — and contains three of the four essential food groups.

Through private sector funding and public partnership, this program is carried out in public schools. Between $80 and $100 can feed a child on the weekends for one 38-week school year through this program. All of the money raised to fund a school, goes to feeding that school’s students.

Monforte has been as student at Brooklyn College since 2010, aiming for a Bachelor’s of Arts in Children’s Studies, which she says enables students to fight for the rights of children in a variety of aspects. She has been volunteering for many different organizations over the years.

“I raised my kids by myself and my grandkids by myself, and when I saw this on TV, it struck a personal chord,” said Monforte. “I have seen firsthand how hunger can impact the lives of children and their families, and have been looking for a way to combat childhood hunger.”

Monforte said that although many assume that Bay Ridge consists of wealthy families, there are families in need as well. And, so she felt that she needed to bring this program to the neighborhood.

“I went to P.S. 102 because, when my child attended school there, they were of great help to me and my family in our struggles, so it’s my way of giving back to them,” Monforte explained.

Monforte added that the principal, social worker and parent coordinator of P.S. 102 were pleased to accept the program. “We are serving about 110 children with more on a waiting list sadly because we need to raise funds and it has been difficult to get the word out to everyone,” she said.

On March 24, Monforte spoke about the organization at the Community Board 10 meeting at the Norwegian Christian Home where she said, “I don’t have the funds; help me raise the funds.”

This year, the program is funded by three donors – former New York Giants Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks, Director of Public Relations for United Healthcare Maria Gordon Shydlor and Sports Agent Ryan Altizer, who connects athletes with non-profits. Monforte has also received help from Foodtown in Bay Ridge.

After picking up an additional donor at a Community Board meeting, Monforte is trying to set up the program at P.S. 503, an elementary school in Sunset Park.

“Hopefully we can work it out within the last two months of school left,” Monforte said.

She added that if she is not able to get it started during the last two months of school, then she could get the program running for the next school year.

Monforte currently teaches at St. Patrick’s Church, and, with her grandson, stocks its food pantry. She also tries to help others through the Bay Ridge Parents Blog. Monforte helps out with whatever she can get her hands on.

Her goal is to begin “Grandma’s Love,” a non-profit organization that would expand the current food program to junior high school, as well as provide clothing and books to children. Through the program, “grandma’s closet” would house children’s clothing that community members donate, so when there is a family in need, the organization can help.

In the area of literacy, Monforte said, the organization would supply books to children who otherwise would not get one, with seniors in the community also reading stories to children, a “sort of adopt-a-grandparent program.”

To help out, contact Monforte at 347-206-3588 or by email at [email protected]. Donations can be made at blessingsinabackpack.com.

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