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  • The Enterprise News: Backpacks contain blessings for hungry Brockton students

    ​BROCKTON - Weekends can be bleak for children who only receive a hot meal when they are in school from Monday to Friday.

    But after a year in operation, Brockton’s version of the national Blessings in a Backpack initiative now sends food home on Fridays with 100 needy students at three elementary schools – the Kennedy, BB Russell and Huntington – and soon there may be more.

    It costs $80 to feed a child for a year in the program launched in January 2014 by three members of Brockton’s McDuffy family – mother Janet McDuffy, the Kennedy’s retired director of math and science curriculum – sister Jami Milnamow, 35, a Kennedy teacher – and sister Meg Schoenberg.

    Schoenberg said she first read about the Blessings program in People magazine and knew she wanted to help. It didn’t take any persuasion for the others to get on board and a year and a half later they were in business.

    McDuffy became the face of the program – working with school adjustment counselors and others to identify the needy, and organize how the nutrition would be distributed.

    During her teaching career, McDuffy said she often saw children having difficulty focusing on school work because of missed meals.

    “Blessings in a Backpack is a program that addresses that void and allows us an opportunity to give back to the Brockton school community,” she said.

    Milnamow recalled a day during her first year teaching when she was packing students up for winter break. One of them came to her crying.

    “When I asked why, she said, ‘I don’t have any food at home. I only eat at school.’ ... She left me speechless, and this moment has stuck with me for 13 years,” Milnamow said.

    “At first we packed 4- to 6-weeks’ worth of food at a time in my mother’s basement,” said Schoenberg, 37, then delivered it to schools.

    Brockton school officials soon offered storage and work space at Brockton High School and Tom Burke of Chartwells Food Service started making the deliveries, she said.

    Last week, a line of volunteers spent two hours packing up the plastic bags with cans of soup, tuna, Spaghettios and fruit and snacks.

    “There is so much need in Brockton,” Shoenberg said. “Some folks live in hotels and don’t have kitchens to cook.”

    The Blessings program has been able to grow, thanks to support from Signature Healthcare, which donates all the food for the Kennedy School, and Good Samaritan Medical Center, which also recently contributed $5,000, Schoenberg said.

    Ward 2 School Committee member Andy Robinson has also worked to open doors in Brockton to help the organization to grow, the women said.

    A raffle to raise the $2,000 needed to expand the program to another school is currently underway at www.raffleriver.com/app/raffle/2169-Blessings-In-A-Backpack-Citywide-Spring-Raffle-2015.

    Winners of a pair of Red Sox tickets, a mini iPad and a hand-made Boxer Country sign will be drawn on April 10.

    “The bottom line is we all have busy lives and running a program like this takes effort,” Shoenberg said.

    “But with some passion and a core belief that things are possible we can all achieve great things together.”

     From: The Enterprise News

    March 21, 2015