Because student enrollment reflects the community, the percentage of schoolchildren that receive free or reduced-cost school lunches is one important indicator of area poverty. In many schools across the country, 100 percent of the attending children qualify for the free/reduced-cost lunch program. Once the figure reaches 40 percent or more, the number of children and their families requiring support and assistance is significant. These children often do not have some of the basic necessities to succeed in school—adequate nutrition, books and supplies, or school clothing and uniforms.

Some examples of ways that congregations partner with local schools to meet student needs include collecting and distributing school supplies as a new school year begins and assisting with the purchase of school uniforms, shoes, or sports uniforms.

Because many children are at risk of hunger when school is not in session, some churches offer a summer lunch program or organize a backpack food program for the weekends (see the excellent starter toolkit for the Backpack Food Program by Hunger Free Colorado:   http://www.hungerfreecommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/HFC-Toolkit-for-starting-a-BackPack-Food-Program.pdf.

From The Parish Paper, Back to School: How Churches Can Partner with Local Schools by Cynthia Woolever