Though my child is almost three-years-old, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the start of school but not for reasons you may think. For those of you who do not know, I work at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama. One of our most popular and most needed programs is called the Weekenders Backpack Program. Over the Summer, our amazing team led by my colleague Jon Barnacastle, have been coordinating volunteers, meeting with schools, and getting ready to launch another successful semester. Here’s how it works:
- Food Bank partners with 33 schools across 5 counties in Alabama
- Food Bank volunteers pack bags with 2 breakfast items, 2 entrees, snacks, and 1 family pack of Mac & Cheese
- Bags are delivered to participating schools via our Food Bank trucks or member agencies
- Counselors/School staff identify children they believe to be chronically hungry
- School staff discretely place bags in backpacks of children they’ve carefully identified every Friday
- 1700+ children are given a backpack each week throughout the school year
- Then we start all over again!
I can assure you that a backpack program isn’t the only solution for the 75,000+ children in our 12-county service area who live in poverty. We have so much work to do in order for us to impact those kind of numbers, but I can tell you from working at the Food Bank how much these packs have meant to the children and families we serve.
We hear the stories about:
- Children who shoulder the burden of trying to figure out how to feed their families every day by looking for food at school.
- A student who when asked why she wasn’t eating her school lunch said that “it wasn’t her day to eat” because her family only had enough for one sibling to eat per day.
- Another child who rode the bus to school every single morning with an empty lunchbox.
- The mothers who sacrifice their meals at the end of each month just so they can feed their children.
All of these stories are true, so you can imagine what a pack of food each week may do for a family having to choose between food and rent. And you can especially imagine how hunger affects a child’s ability to learn and grow. How would you be able to focus if you were never sure where you were getting your next meal? A family’s lifestyle can change in an instant: a lost job, an unexpected sickness, or a family emergency. I only wish we could do more for these kiddos, which brings me to why I’m writing this post.
We are in the very last stretch of our Weekenders Campaign. We’ve made some significant improvements to our program: 1) We’ve increased the weight of each pack 2) We’ve moved to a weekly distribution for every school. Because we’ve grown so fast, we need to keep up with the packs needed each week AND work to get the schools on our waiting list sponsored! I want to thank so many of you who have either donated, helped us pack, and/or continue to ask how you can support us. Here are the easiest ways to help:
1) Donate! $140 sponsors one child for the entire school year. Your dollars cover the food we purchase, boxes, and the overhead it takes us to coordinate volunteers and distribute the packs. Donate here: http://endweekendhunger.today/
2) Volunteer: As I mentioned earlier, we are always in need of volunteers to get these bags packed! Whether it is your family, your corporation, your faith-based organization, or your sorority — we ask you to contact email@example.com to sign up today!
3) Sponsor! If your corporation/faith-based organization would like to donate funding and time to this project, please contact me or my colleague, Jon Barnacastle, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4) Contacts! If you happen to know a food distributer willing to donate snacks on a larger scale for this program, we’d love to get in touch with them. Because we purchase almost all of the Weekenders Backpack food products, large scale donations will help us use less of our budget on food and more of our budget focused on covering more children!
If you have already given or can’t give at this time, please consider forwarding this link to your networks. I’m eager to see our program soar this semester and need our community’s help to make that happen! Want to know more about us? Visit www.feedingal.org.
I am so appreciative of your interest and support. I don’t know what we’d do without you.