Nationwide, over half a million children live in households that report very low food security among children, meaning a child is not eating enough, going hungry, skipping a meal, or not eating for a full day because the household can’t afford food. School meals cannot alleviate this need outside of school hours. To mitigate food insecurity on days when free school meals are unavailable, foodbanks have partnered with schools to create weekend feeding, or “BackPack,” programs that provide children with a bag of nonperishable food to nourish them over the weekend.

In this brief, authors Michael Kurtz, Karen Conway, and Robert Mohr summarize their recently published article at the Economics of Education Review, which aimed to understand how these BackPack programs relate to academic success. This research uses data from Northwestern North Carolina tracking the first adoptions and subsequent rapid growth of the BackPack program across schools there. The authors combine participation data with restricted administrative student and school data, which allow them to observe how economically disadvantaged students in schools with and without such programs performed on end-of-grade tests in reading and mathematics.

Results provide strong evidence that the introduction of the BackPack program resulted in increased end-of-grade test scores for economically disadvantaged primary school students. The impacts on both reading and math appear strongest for the youngest and lowest performing students.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Summer 8-10-2021


National Issue Brief No. 155


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



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