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Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit organization providing weekend meals for food insecure elementary school students, has been selected as the primary beneficiary for Northwestern University Dance Marathon 2016.


“Hunger controls the lives of 15.8 million children in this country, and we are beyond excited that NUDM has the opportunity to help change that,” said Arielle Miller, one of the NUDM 2016 executive co-chairs. “When you consider that just $100 feeds a child for an entire year, you realize NUDM has the power to directly impact the overall health and academic performance of thousands of kids.”

Each Friday, more than 3,700 Blessings in a Backpack volunteers distribute bags of nutritious weekend food to children who depend on the federal free and reduced price school meals program during the week.

Without food assistance, the children could go up to 65 hours, from the time they leave school on Friday to when they return Monday morning, without eating, officials said.

In Cook County, which has the fourth highest rate of child hunger in the nation, almost 260,000 children live in food insecure households.

Dance Marathon’s financial donations will first help expand existing Blessings in a Backpack programs in Evanston’s Haven Middle School and Oakton Elementary, in addition to supporting the development of new program sites in other Evanston and Chicago-area schools.

Funding will also help establish new, sustainable Blessings in a Backpack programs across the country.

Finally, as Blessings in a Backpack continues to rapidly grow, NUDM’s gift also will help the organization recruit and train new volunteers, even specifically providing resources for Northwestern-affiliated volunteers.

In addition to providing funding to support the nonprofit, NUDM will serve local Evanston schools through a new volunteer program, giving the Northwestern community a unique opportunity to engage with the beneficiary.

“Childhood hunger is an invisible problem that has spread across the United States,” said Brooke Wiseman, CEO of Blessings in a Backpack. “Being the NUDM 2016 beneficiary will allow these kids to know that people in their neighborhood care about them and are working together to keep them fed.”

For the 19th year in a row, the Evanston Community Foundation was selected as NUDM’s secondary beneficiary and will use the donation to fund a variety of local grants.

To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.