Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis will visit two Rock Hill schools next week with a crew from NBC to film an effort to get food to hungry children.
NBC confirmed that the Food Network star and "Today" show contributor will be in town Monday and Tuesday to report on Rock Hill schools' "Back the Pack" program, which sends needy students home on Fridays with backpacks full of food.
The permanent fundraiser and food drive serves some 650 elementary and middle school students - about half of the children school officials say are undernourished.
De Laurentiis is expected to visit the Applied Technology Center where high school students in a warehouse distribution course pack and ship the food to schools. The television crew also will visit India Hook Elementary, where children receive backpacks.
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The crew plans to interview school officials and the parent of a student served by the program, Rock Hill schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker said.
Back the Pack drew national attention last year when Sue Kutz, a full-time volunteer who helped develop the program, was named one of cosmetics giant L'Oreal Paris' 10 "Women of Worth."
The competition sought to spotlight "tireless advocates for service and change in their ... communities."
That is where NBC learned about "Back the Pack," Baker said.
Backpacks are filled with nonperishable foods such as applesauce, crackers, granola bars and juice boxes. Teachers pass them out discreetly, visiting classes while kids are at lunch or recess. At some schools, students are called out of class to receive them.
Educators suspected students were malnourished for some time before the program started. Children would take food from classmates during lunch. Some would ask cafeteria workers for seconds and thirds. Others would wrap part of their meal to take home.
In 2008, the district surveyed teachers, nurses and guidance counselors about problems that keep students from learning and found that more than 1,100 children, or one in 17, leave school on Fridays and don't eat another full meal until they return.
Back the Pack launched that fall.
De Laurentiis' shows on the Food Network are "Everyday Italian," "Behind the Bash" and "Giada's Weekend Getaways."
She has an anthropology degree from UCLA. She began her culinary career by studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, specializing in both cuisine and pastry. She returned to Los Angeles, where her training included positions at the Ritz Carlton Fine Dining Room and Wolfgang Puck's Spago in Beverly Hills.