Partner Highlight: Backpack Meals for Kids
There are children who go hungry every weekend in Bellevue. One in five students in the Bellevue School District qualifies for free and reduced price meals at school. For some of these kids, school meals represent the bulk of their weekly nutrition.
Since March 2012, Backpack Meals for Kids has been working to eliminate the tragedy of weekend hunger. We started in two schools, providing weekend meals for 20-30 students weekly. Today, we serve 22 schools and provided 29,500 meals in the 2015-2016 school year.
What role does Backpack Meals for Kids play in the community?
Each weekend in the current (2016-2017) school year, Backpack Meals for Kids provide 320 children with a meal packet for the weekend. The packets have two each of a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner, and snacks, packed in a zip lock bag. The food consists of individual, shelf-stable foods such as canned tuna, chicken and milk. Each child is given a backpack at the beginning of the year, which the child returns for refill every Friday, and picks up discreetly from either a family connections center or counselors office. Any child whose family struggles to put food on the table can see their teacher or school counselor and ask to be part of this program.
This year we are purchasing nutritious cost-effective meals already packed. This allows our volunteers to focus on food delivery. We have had great comments about the food and our new system from kids and teachers.
How do you get this work done?
Backpack Meals for Kids is a completely voluntary organization. We ask community members, friends, neighbors, area businesses, and churches for donations. People understand that children cannot learn if they do not have adequate nutrition. What was not as well-known was the degree to which this problem affected Bellevue School District Children. The community has been generous and each year we have been able to end the year under budget. Because we have no salaries or overhead, all money goes to purchase food except for a small amount for office supplies and outreach materials.
What are ways that people can get involved with Backpack Meals for Kids?
The community can ensure that no child goes hungry by donating small and big to make a bigger difference:
- $10 fills a backpack for one student
- $40 supports one student for a month
- $100 helps 10 students for a week
- $1500 supports the whole program for a month
With inputs from Jan Starr, Executive Director of Backpack Meals for Kids