Blessings in a Backpack partners with Sysco nationally to provide the food our programs serve. Through the Sysco network of distribution centers, we are able to offer a variety of nutritional, “kid-friendly” food options for our weekend food, including both case goods (aka “Line Item Menus”) and prepackaged meal kits (aka “Weekend Food Packs”). Food solutions offered through the national program at Blessings in a Backpack are carefully selected to ensure that we are providing the best nutrition possible for the money spent on food.
By partnering with Sysco and several key manufacturers in a National Food Solution, we are able to get preferred pricing on the items we purchase. As a result, each Blessings program benefits from the combined volume of the entire Blessings network, regardless of size. Companies like Kellogg, Conagra, StarKist, and others share the Blessings vision and support Blessings in many ways.
Typically, donated food comes from manufacturer’s excess inventory and may be approaching the expiration date. In order to ensure consistent availability of products that meet Blessings in a Backpack’s nutrition and “kid-friendly” requirements, purchasing food is the most reliable approach. Note, however, that we receive “preferred” pricing from the selected food manufacturers such as Kellogg’s and Conagra because they believe in the Blessings program. That means we get even better pricing than what the standard distributor pricing would be.
We take into consideration many factors including: nutritional value, appropriateness for the children we feed, long-term availability, unit cost, ease of opening, portion size, shelf life, and variety. Since many of the children we serve may not have access to conveniences we take for granted, such as working appliances or a can opener, our menus contain foods that can be eaten – and are reasonably appealing – direct from the package. Our food must also not require refrigeration, require little to no preparation, and be peanut free.
With input from Blessings in a Backpack’s nutritional advisors, we look to maximize proteins, fibers, and nutrients while minimizing processed sugars. Kid-friendly foods are selected: individual servings that don’t require a can opener, microwave, or stove. Menu items provide convenient and portable sources of fuel and energy that the kids can serve themselves–all at an economical price point.
By working with a national food distributor, and manufacturers that focus on meeting USDA standards for National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, Blessings has access to products that typically aren’t available in retail grocery stores.
The Kellogg’s cereals selected for our weekend menus are not what you will find on grocery store shelves. Although they carry the same name as those that kids typically ask for at home, the products included in the Blessings menus are whole grain, higher in fiber, lower in sugar, and more nutrient-rich versions of the products and brands kids know and love. Because of the increased nutritional value, we are able to feature varieties of cereals that are tasty when eaten out of the bowl: we can’t assume the kids we serve have access to milk at home.