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Scarlett Johansson backs Backpack

Thesp makes child hunger a priority with org

Ed Norton | HFPA | Katie Couric | America Ferrera | David Spade | Quincy Jones | Sam Waterston | Kristin Chenoweth | Scarlett Johansson | Ethan Hawke | Bill Maher | Jay Leno | Ryan Reynolds

One out of every six children in the United States (12.4 million) is at risk of hunger. It’s a staggering statistic and one that Scarlett Johansson and the nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack are fighting to change.

“A lot of us take food for granted, but being fed every day is a privilege,” says the actress, who acts as a fundraiser and spokesperson for the org. “Food is the first thing on anyone’s mind — how they’re going to feed their family. Once you take away some of that pressure, it enables people to focus on other things. Blessings in a Backpack provides food for kids on the weekends, when they don’t have access to school lunch.”

The Blessings program is designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federal free-and-reduced meal program and who may not have any food at home on Saturdays and Sundays. An $80 donation feeds a child for an entire school year. Every Friday, children receive a backpack filled with such staples as pasta, canned goods and oatmeal.

The nonprofit org, which began with one school in 2005, now serves 23,500 students in 155 schools in 19 states.

“When children are nourished, they do better in school,” Johansson points out. “That’s proven. It’s quite shocking, but a lot people are unaware of what’s happening in their own backyard. There are impoverished people living in America, really struggling here. Especially now. It would be ignorant of us to not recognize that.”

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