BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Bethlehem Area School District is joining a Backpack Pals program that collects  non-perishable foods for needy children in the district.

The food is distributed in backpacks to those children during long school holiday weekends, to provide easy-to-serve, nutritious breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.

The first distribution date for Bethlehem students will be over their spring break.

Items for the Backpack Pals-Bethlehem program now can be dropped off at the following locations:

*  6-8 p.m. Tuesdays or Thursdays in marked bin at Fuentes Martial Arts, Willow Park Rd., Bethlehem Twp,;

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 521 E. Locust St., Bethlehem (items must be marked for Backpack Pals);

*Items can be placed in boxes on the porch at 3545 Coleman St., Bethlehem Twp.

Only non-perishable items are collected  and they should be in plastic containers, not glass. Backpack Pals organizers also ask that donated food be the healthiest possible options.

Some suggestions:

• Non-refrigerated milk packs, any kind, regular or alternative; 6 or 8 pack (individuals)

• Cereal bowls or boxes, individual size

• Fruit cups or applesauce, no sugar added, 4 or 6 pack

• Ravioli/canned pastas, pop top, single serving

• Soup, pop top, single serving or small can

• Macaroni and cheese, individual pop tops or individual pouches

• Jelly or jam, no homemade please, squeeze jar is good

• Peanut butter, small jar

• Crackers, saltine or Ritz-type

• Non-refrigerated juice pack, all juice, no sugar added; 6 or 8 pack (individuals)

• Protein/cereal/granola bars; box of 6 or 8, high protein, high fiber

• Raisins; 6 pack of small boxes or 1 regular size box

• Personal hygiene items such as individual packed new toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.

Backpack Pals is a partnership program. In Bethlehem that partnership includes Sodexo, the district's food service provider, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church and the founders of the Backpack Pals-Bethlehem program.

For information about  Backpack Pals-Bethlehem, contact founder Nikki Testa at 610-704-5262 or backpackpalpa@gmail.com.

Bethlehem's program is an expansion of the Easton Backpack Pals program.