Several community organizations, including the Pasadena Rotary Club, will be giving away kid-friendly meals among students of Pasadena Unified School District elementary schools in a new program called Weekend Backpack Program.

The meals will be packed into backpacks and delivered to the schools for check-out on Fridays. The backpacks will then be returned by the students on the following Monday.

On March 29 and 30, Pasadena Rotarians will be donating their time to help load the backpacks at the Pasadena Salvation Army location.

Shel Capeloto, Pasadena Rotary Club President, said the project is in response to the “significantly high” number of children in the PUSD elementary schools who are on the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs.

“For some children, these are their only two meals of the day,” Capeloto said. “Hungry children suffer from health problems such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches and frequent colds. They are more likely to be ill and absent from school and typically cannot concentrate or do as well as others when they are at school.”

Pasadena Rotary has already donated about $3,000 for the purchase of nutritious food that will fill the backpacks, but Capeloto expects other organizations and individuals to help so that the program will continue for as long as necessary.

“We’re kicking off at the end of the month through the semester, but we hope we could continue the program through next year as well,” Capeloto said. “The Club’s participation in this service project will allow it to help provide nutritious meals for these children, thereby reducing the effects of hunger on our growing population.”

Groups and individuals willing to help may course their donations through the Salvation Army in Pasadena, located at 960 E. Walnut Street.

The Salvation Army also runs a nationwide Hunger Relief program, where it serves more than 56 million meals to anyone in need through soup kitchens, sit-down meal programs, food pantries and community gardens, and now, the Pasadena-based Weekend Backpack Program.

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