SmilePak program provides students nourishment, hope

Kathy Pickett, dean at Mulberry Middle School in Mulberry, Fla., offers a student a backpack filled with a weekend supply of food through the SmilePak program.

Thirty students at Mulberry Middle School in Mulberry, Fla., know they won't go hungry. On Friday afternoons the group meets Kathy Pickett in the school's food pantry to secretly pick up backpacks filled with food. The food in the backpacks provides the students and their families a weekend supply of nourishment. On Monday morning, empty backpacks are returned to the school, and the cycle is repeated.

The backpacks are part of a program called SmilePak, sponsored by Agape Food Bank, a Catholic Charities of Central Florida program in Lakeland. Once a week, more than 1,000 food-filled backpacks are given to kindergarten through high school students who attend one of the 22 participating schools.

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A version of this story appeared in the March 28-April 10, 2014 print issue under the headline: SmilePak program provides students nourishment, hope .

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