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10 Years of Providing Weekend Meals for Greenwich Students

The Supplemental Student Nutrition Program (SSNP), also known as the “Backpack Program,” is celebrating its tenth anniversary this week at Comfort Food Community (CFC)! This program was launched in 2014 as CFC’s first food access program, making it a significant milestone to mark this year. The SSNP provides weekend food packages to students in the Greenwich School District, supplementing their weekday school meals.

Over the past decade, the SSNP has seen substantial growth, currently serving 33 students in the Greenwich School District and reaching as many as 50 students weekly at its peak. The program has evolved in various ways since its inception. Initially, students would physically carry home a backpack filled with food every Friday, hence the program's nickname.

Jennie Mueller, Greenwich Elementary Principal, describes the shift: “You can imagine some of these students being five years old and they're carrying their school backpack and their food backpack; that was very challenging. We decided that CFC would start delivering directly to the families' homes, which made a huge difference for our students… It became less of a burden for the student and more of support for the family itself.”

There have also been significant changes made to the menu over the years. “In the beginning it was much more canned, boxed, and I would have to say processed food, which has changed significantly. [Now, the program distributes] much more fresh foods focusing on good nutrition and meats that can be frozen” explains Mueller.

The shift from a more standard menu to one that is full of fresh fruits and veggies along with high-quality proteins and pantry staples like cereal, mac & cheese, and snacks is largely due to the work of the program lead, Cathy Shaw-Hebert. Cathy is a volunteer and member of the CFC Board of Directors who is committed to the quality of the SSNP and the health and well-being of Greenwich students.

Cathy describes why the shift in menu was an important one: “I wanted to provide them with not only nutritious food but with food that they like. I know that they will like chicken noodle soup more than hash, for example.”

The “Backpack Program” is a cornerstone of community support for Greenwich families and a crucial part of CFC's food access initiatives. Through various efforts, including multiple food pantry locations, mobile pantries, and the SSNP program, CFC strives to make food access easier for rural community members.

Jennie Mueller speaks to the impact of this program saying, “This is a small community and our school is a significant part of it. For us to be able to work with community organizations such as CFC to help support families with the goal in mind of academic achievement, that’s a powerful thing for any student.” The SSNP continues to be a beacon of support for Greenwich families, enriching the lives of students and contributing to their overall well-being and success.

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