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News Release - Weekend Backpack Food Program

Nov. 18, 2010

News Release

Weekend Backpack Food Program Continues to Fill Gap for Homeless Youth in Second Year

Homeless students and students at high risk of homelessness in 11 school districts will have access to food supplies for the weekend, thanks to a second round of support from the Qwest Foundation.

Last year’s program led to the distribution of 6,500 backpacks for 1,400 students across the state.

The Weekend Backpack Food Program runs through June 2011 in Adams County School District 50, Adams County School District 14, Colorado Springs School District 11, Denver Public Schools, Durango School District, Littleton Public Schools, Mancos School District, Mesa Valley County School District 51, Pueblo City Schools, Poudre School District and the San Luis Valley BOCES.

The initiative provides students with supplies of non-perishable food for the weekend and the opportunity to return to class ready to learn on Monday morning. The backpack effort began with a $50,000 donation from the Qwest Foundation in 2009 for the 2009-2010 school year, and will continue with a second $50,000 grant for 2010-2011.

“District liaisons who work with homeless populations reported terrific response last year and we are pleased we can provide this service again,” said Dana Scott, state coordinator for the Education of Children and Homeless Youth at the Colorado Department of Education, administers the program. “We know that providing resources for this program allows students to focus on school work, to stay nourished and to have a better chance of being successful in all their classes.”

Students pick up full backpacks on Friday and return them empty on Monday.

The need for this program continues to grow. Colorado has the fastest growing poverty rate in the United States. The Colorado Children’s Campaign report, “2010 Kids Count in Colorado!” states the number of Colorado children living at or below the federal poverty level of about $22,000 for a family of four rose 72 percent between 2000 and 2008. The full report can be accessed at www.coloradokids.org/

The number of Colorado students experiencing homelessness has also increased substantially, rising from 12,302 in the 2007-2008 school year to 15,834 in the 2008-2009 school year, a 28 percent increase. Numbers for 2009-2010 will not be available until mid-December. However, based on feedback from district homeless education liaisons, a significant increase is expected to be reported again.

“By collaborating with local districts and other agencies to support the Colorado Department of Education in nourishing students through the weekend, we hope to help these kids come to school at the beginning of each week ready to learn,” said Chuck Ward, Qwest state president of Colorado. “The Qwest Foundation is pleased to offer its support so the backpacks can continue to circulate again this year. We hope this program, and others like it, can help raise awareness of the silent problem of child poverty.”

Watch Dana Scott describe the impact of the program here: http://bit.ly/QwestWeekendBackpack

Qwest Media Contact: Stephanie Walkenshaw, Qwest Corporate Communications, (303) 992-2352 or stephanie.walkenshaw@qwest.com; Twitter:@swalkenshaw

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