Photo by Justin Criado

Students at Pittsburgh King PreK-8 hold up a handmade sign for Pittsburgh Steelers Kelvin Beachum’s visit Oct. 6.

By Justin Criado

As a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kelvin Beachum knows how important nutrition is to success, especially given the position he plays at offensive line, so during a visit to Northside Oct. 6, Beachum preached the that importance to students of Manchester PreK-8 and Pittsburgh King PreK-8.

The visits were part of a new pilot backpack program that will provide nearly 2,000 Northside students with nutritional snacks for weekend meals.

“The program that I’m talking about is a backpack program that social workers here at the school, FOCUS Pittsburgh and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank put together to make sure (the students) have food over the weekend,” Beachum said. “The main thing that I wanted to stress is when you receive the backpack make sure that you are eating every bit of the food because there’s people that do care about you. I care about you or I wouldn’t be here today.”
The program is an initiative of One Northside and came to fruition when a school counselor at one of the Northside schools called the food bank, noting the students’ behavior from the weekend to the start of the week was indifferent and cited food availability as a possible factor.

“The concern raised in that early phone call from the counselor was confirmed for us by community-wide conversations taking place throughout the Northside as part of the One Northside planning effort,” food bank president & CEO Lisa Scales said.

The backpacks will contain ready-made meals and snacks, including cereal, juice and fruit snacks for two days.

The program will be in every Northside school this year except Manchester Academic Charter School, Pittsburgh Schiller PreK-8 and Spring Hill Elementary, which will all be included after the initial pilot program.

“On a daily basis there are a lot of people in the community, including Mr. Beachum, that think about you, and that’s what this is all about,” FOCUS Pittsburgh director Paul Abernathy said. “This is a gift from the community to say that we love you.”

DSC_1213Photo by Justin Criado

Kelvin Beachum (center) cheers on a Pittsburgh King student student as he attempts push-ups during his visit Oct. 6.