A Simple Way to Give: Blessings in a Backpack

Carrie emailed in the following testimonial:

Three years ago, our church of 40 members started giving away backpacks and school supplies every August for needy children in our area. I secured a list of families from a local organization, sent out invitations, and began collecting donations from Target, Meijer, and individuals.

These donations were used to fill backpacks for 150 needy children. To top it off, they were invited to our church facility where a local salon set up hair cutting stations and gave the children free back-to-school haircuts. It was incredible!

Fast forward three years, to this past August. We had so many backpacks and supplies donated the we had leftovers. I called two local schools, asking them if they would like what we had left.

One said, “Yes. We can use those to send food home to children who need it.” I was astonished, heartbroken, and saddened–there were children in our area, who for whatever reason, were not being fed by their parents on the weekend.

Since this particular school already had a food program in place, I contacted the school that was taking the remainder of our backpacks and told the counselor my plan: We wanted to provide food for needy children in the school via a backpack each week.  

That started the ball rolling. The school sent home surveys to parents to get a feel for who needed food, and how many people we would be dealing with. It turned out that there are 18 children who go home each Friday with a backpack of food to feed them for seven meals over the weekend. Our little church of 40 people is feeding 18 children week! I did some math, and when it came down to it, a backpack of weekend food can be filled for less than $10!

After a few months of this, I was made aware of a national organization called Blessings in a Backpack. Although our church isn’t doing the program through this organization, it seems to be an easy way to start helping others if you need something more “official” to present to a school for consideration.

The point of the Backpack Buddies is not to fill pantries for families, but instead to provide enough food to children to get them through the weekend.  

Here is a list of food we decided to collect:

  • Canned vegetables and fruit (with easy open tops)
  • Canned meat or meat stews (with easy open tops)
  • Easy Mac or Ramen CUP of Soup
  • Juice Boxes
  • Shelf Stable Milk
  • Snacks (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, etc.)
  • Breakfast items (small boxes of cereal, granola bars, cereal bars, etc.)

We try to make the foods as kid-friendly as possible to open, prepare, and warm in the microwave.

I am so thankful to God that He has blessed us in a way that we can be a blessing to others! -Carrie

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Comments

  1. Leighann says

    It isn’t just religious organizations that feed needy children. Our atheist/humanist group regularly serves our local food pantries, and we are organizing a toy donation drive for homeless children.

    So if you’re thinking it’s only religious folk who care, now you know :-)

    • April says

      Who inferred that “only religious folk” care? Anyone can be a blessing to others, of course. Though because Crystal is open about her faith, it shouldn’t be surprising that the writer is involved in Christ-centered giving.

      • Leighann says

        I just wanted to let people know. Sometimes people think the only organizations out there that help people, that give to charities, that feed the needy, etc. are religious organizations like this one. I like spreading the word that you can be good without religion :-)

        • Leighann says

          My way with words fail me today!

          What I am *trying* to say, and let us see if I can actually get the words down correctly, is:

          If you’re interested in doing charity work like this, and you are not religious, there are plenty of places you can help through. It isn’t only religious folk who do charities. Get in touch with your local American Humanist Association chapter and find charities near you that you can help.

          People from all walks of life, faiths, beliefs, and income levels want to help others, so don’t feel you have to belong to a church or religious organization in order to be involved in feeding the needy or helping children!

          OK, I hope that came out better than my original post and reply! :-) My children are being very distracting today ;)

          • amy says

            Leighann, I love how you stuck with your comments until you were able to get it out right. Isn’t it wonderful that each one of us has an inate concern for the wellbeing of others? Anyway, just wanted to encourage you that I hear what you were trying to say.

    • leah says

      Thanks for this comment. It is a misconception of some people in my life that giving is unique to Christian organizations.

  2. Nicole says

    Kudos to the church for doing this.

    Major Kudos to the backpack program as well.

    I am so saddened by this though. For one because parents are not feeding their kids. My mom saw this when she ran a daycare also. Heartbreaking.

    I know that food in the backpack is all they will have. But it is so sad because SO MANY of our ailments that we all sit back and wonder why we have them (ADD, moody teenagers that lash out with violence, diabetes, heart disease, and so much more) is caused by all the weird stuff they put in foods. Research has shown that the colorings Red, Yellow, Blue in foods causes hyperactivity in kids. I wish there was a way to get FRESH food (pesticide free foods, not fake fillers, not food stored in BPA containers for months on shelves) in front of those kids to eat. Not living their lives off of 95% prepackaged foods that are warming their bellies in the moment but not providing real true nutrition to sustain them or give them a chance at a healthy life.

    In some areas, the food pantry goes to a local elementary school during the summer. They will feed any child that shows up. It’s a way to feed kids over the summer who normally got free/reduced lunch at school during the year.

    Bless everyone for feeding children who aren’t their own. Just wish there was a better way for it to be cleaner foods.

    • says

      Unfortunately, the fresh foods are often tossed. This is why the “breakfast” that is provided by schools here to needy children consists of prepackaged items only. Bananas, apples, and oranges are ignored, and so, they are not provided. Poptarts and danishes are provided instead.

      • Nicole says

        sad. they don’t all work this way! oranges are good for a while, that is surprising.

        • says

          If you ask the teachers and the others in our area who work at the local schools, they will tell you that the healthy foods from home-packed lunches and from school lunches are also usually tossed. I have heard story after story about it. It is REALLY sad that when there is good food there, the children don’t want it.

      • Dineen says

        The processed food that was provided at Headstart Preschool for my daughter was just one (of the many) reason(s) my husband and I withdrew her after just a few weeks trial. I can feed her better at home, even on our frugal income, as well as respect her natural rhythms.

  3. Nicole says

    Leighann – I agree with you also. My mom is not religious and gives to the children of Mexico, for example. Not church/religious based at all!

    • cwaltz says

      I know many secular folk that have spent a lot of time advocating for programs that help feed the hungry or house the homeless.

      Personally, I think it shouldn’t solely be the responsibility of church systems to take care of the communities, it’s the responsibility of all of us.

      • K* says

        I totally agree with this! Granted, I’m secular, but it is warming my heart to see women of faith respecting that others help out, too. I have been told that I couldn’t really do any charity work because I’m not Christian, and it stung. (It wasn’t here, of course).

  4. Joy in the South says

    My small group at church does backpacks, though not through an organization. We currently give out food for 22 children every other week, with the goal to eventually be able to do it every week. We were shocked to find out there are children with nothing to eat over the weekend. Studies have shown that children who receive food for the weekend do better in school during the week. It is a huge blessing to the children, the school staff, and, most of all, to us.

  5. Christine says

    This is a wonderful program that we’re doing at our church. We have 2 schools in our community – the church that we go to was doing one of the school systems in our county. This year a group of churches on the other side of the county got together and started doing this in the other school system. My kids go to the school system that just started the program this year and it’s amazing to see how many backpacks are ready to go on Friday and come back every Monday. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I am able to help some of the kids that my children call friends at school that don’t have the ability to have much of any type of meal at home on the weekends.

  6. says

    I teach and my school particpates in a program like this. The backpacks are discrete so that the other students do not know that who is going home with food. I know that the food is processed and that’s not ideal, but please, please keep in mind that these are children who were going home to NOTHING or ALMOST NOTHING. When you’re hungry, food is food. We can’t beat ourselves up about this not being grass-fed organic beef with heirloom tomatoes–and we certainly can’t discourage people from providing this service to children and families who so desperately need it.

    • Jessica says

      Thank you!!! At least there is some nutritional value and it does serve a very important role for these kids. I was amazed that was even brought up. Makes you wonder if these people ever eat out or if their children ever eat a school lunch.

      • Elizabeth says

        Nope, not that much. :-)

        I think the point that we have been making is that there are consequences to feeding low-income children low-quality food. It isn’t enough (though it is a wonderful start!) to just send home some Chef Boyardee and think that solves the problem. It solves one problem, but creates another. We just can’t stop here, I think is our point.

          • cwaltz says

            I think their point is that feeding a child something with a sodium content that is half the recommended for an adult diet (in the case of many canned goods or ramen)is just a very short term solution.

            There are long term health consequences to poor nutritional choices. There are kids that aren’t even making it into their teens with diabetes or hypertension secondary to obesity.

            Yes, it costs more to feed a child nutritionally but in the long run it is cheaper because a healthier diet means less health concerns.

        • April says

          As a high school nutrition teacher, I see validity to both sides of the argument. However, what I see first hand that many do not is the HUNGER that these children experience. Would it be awesome to be able to provide well-rounded, wholesome weekend meals for them? Of course. If we wait until we are able to do that, however, these children GO HUNGRY. Hungry. Not undernourished. Hungry.

          I have students who wrap up half of their lunch in a napkin to take home for dinner. It’s heartbreaking.

          So providing processed food to these children may in fact be setting them up for poor eating habits in the future, but they are being fed when otherwise they would not be.

    • Nicole says

      “grass-fed organic beef with heirloom tomatoes”

      My standards aren’t that high. And I do provide help, still.

      As a related side note, I do work for dozens of nonprofits that include WorldVision and FoodBanks, among many others. So I do still help, I don’t use that as an excuse to not help. I just see a bigger picture issue with the issues in america and around the world when it comes to nutrition. Something that people don’t always think of.

      I’m just saying this because people buy top ramen on clearance and drop it off at the foodbank, or to these kind of charities and there is a bigger problem going on. Malnutrition isn’t just “not eating”, it’s eating junk, as well.

      My hope would be for people to be more mindful. Tons and tons of cheap food with no nutritional value dropped off isn’t better than a small quantity that is a more wholesome food.

      My other hope would be for coporations that understand the value of healthful, nutrient-rich foods to step up and provide Corporate Donations to these kind of activities.

    • Amy says

      I agree with you. While I would love to see every backpack filled with nutritious, whole foods, the fact is that when you are hungry and have no promise of another meal for days, you will gladly eat whatever is give to you. I dare say that being “harmed” by less-than-nutritious food is far better than being harmed by an endlessly-empty tummy. Maybe one day food prices will allow more people to buy up the good, nutritious food readily. Until then, how wonderful that we can send home pre-packaged, easy to use food for those who are without.

      • Jessica says

        Thank you! People seem to be more worried about the nutritional value, when these hungry kids just want a little something to fill their tummies. It’s like they can’t see the forest for the trees.

        • Elizabeth says

          It’s not that we can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s that filling kids who already are at terrible disadvantage full of artificially-colored food that causes hyperactivity, diabetes, and obesity is just trading one problem for another. I am not in anyway denigrating what this program is doing– it is an important program and I have participated in one like it. I’m just saying that until we demand that kids, regardless of their circumstances, are consistently fed high-quality, nutritious food, and, as a society we are ready and willing to pay to make that happen, then we are NOT doing our duty to them and to our future. No reasonable person thinks it is better to have nothing than something, just that it is not enough to give kids something that causes both short- and long-term harm. We must do that AND change the system that forces us into these unacceptable choices.

      • Jessica says

        I’d like to add that in our area, there is a severe shortage of low income housing, and we have at least one group of single mothers who are living in a motel. They have no kitchens other than a sink, microwave, and dorm fridge. It makes it hard to do something with many whole foods.

        • Elizabeth says

          This is a great point… it would be terrific to send home ideas with these kids about how to create nutritious meals in these circumstances. It can be done!

    • kelliinkc says

      You know, I think that we all have to remember that this is a process and that movements take time. I remember years ago hearing about this problem of kids going home on the weekends with no food to eat in the house. Same thing happened in the summer. I worried and wondered how do you solve a problem of such magnitude? I felt helpless. Then a few years later along came the Backpack program. Our school, church, and Food Bank participate. That is progress. Now 10s of thousands if not 100s of thousands kids nationwide are getting some food with a little nutritional content. That problem was addressed.

      Now we have another problem. How to feed these children the healthy and balanced nutrional meals we strive to feed our own families? I feel confident that in time this issue will also be addressed –especially if so many folks who appear to be so concerned about it turn their minds toward finding a workable solution! In the meantime, these children need to eat. Change takes time. Time these children do not have.

      Remember that it could take years to get the right type of healthy and balanced food into this program. Just stop and think about the types of food that you yourself donate to a Food Bank. I have volunteered in Food Banks, both at a church food pantry and a very large multi county food bank. Frankly, the foods most people tend to donate I wouldn’t feed my family–if I were not in dire straits. Make it a point to begin donating the healthy foods you feed your own families. If all of us did that then the stockpile of healthy foods to put in backpacks would be awesome. In the meantime, we shall have to have great thinkers and problem solvers come up with affordable and food safe solutions to this dilemma.

  7. Sara says

    It breaks my heart to see that some kids Aren’t even fed on weekends,very sad. Thanks for helping and sharing,loved this post.

  8. Kristine says

    My school district has teamed with Harversters and we do the “Backsnack” program. It is donated by Harvesters and organized through parent volunteers.

  9. Angie D says

    Our food bank does this and we have volunteered to help stuff them. Maybe not as meaningful, but was a good opportunity to serve. Kinda funny when my kids were asking me why they don’t get the pre-packaged food at home (pudding, granola bars)!

    • Stephanie says

      It made me cry too! I had to explain to my 4-yr-old why I was crying! We have a serious problem with hunger in our state, and I know our local food bank has a backpack program.

      We donate food frequently from our own pantry and I use it as a teaching tool for my daughter also. But to see it taken to a much higher level is so inspiring!

      It’s amazing what people can accomplish if they dream big!

  10. holly says

    Our food bank does this as well. My 5 year old chose a backpack to donate, and we spent a day filling them as well. The food bank does a good job setting up the assembly line process in a way that keeps young kids busy and involved.
    I am not a fan of giving money and not knowing where it goes, but I am happy to support worthwhile causes!

  11. holly says

    One more comment – I admire anyone who is able to initiate such a program. I in no way want to say that volunteering to help a well-run program is the same as starting one. Kudos to all who initiate such value!

  12. holly says

    I am a bit red faced. My first comment is not displayed. It was about my five year old and I choosing a backpack and volunteering at a local food bank to stuff backpacks with food so that children don’t go hungry over the weekend. That is why I didn’t want to take credit for doing the same work as someone who started a program.

    • Kimber says

      I have had similar red-faced moments. :o) Good for you and your daughter. I try to do similar things with my one- and three-year-olds. We recently made ‘blessing bags’ for the homeless. I had my kids carry the in the bags they helped assemble and hand them to the employee at the donation center. I like what I have read from Crystal – I want to teach my children to be givers.

  13. says

    There is a group in Orlando, FL called Bags of Hope that does something similar. They also provide mentors to all of the kids (I believe they feed about 250 kids every week), and provide them with a book each week to read and then give a report (either written or drawn) every week.

    Here is their Facebook page. If you’re in Central Florida, they are a great group to support.

    https://www.facebook.com/BOHCFL

    • Kristin says

      Thank you for posting this! I am a first grade teacher in Central Florida. My class does a service project every other month and I have been looking for ideas for next month. This will be perfect :) Thanks!

  14. Amy f;) says

    (crying)- what a good idea! It breaks my heart that little ones don’t have food!

  15. says

    This is awesome. I would love to do something like this in my area. Thank God for people like Carrie that care.

  16. Momof5 says

    This sounds like a great program. I especially love the backpacks, which seem like they would be indistinguishable from the backpacks all the kids are carrying anyway. Last night I took my kindergartener to a school event, and because we are a school with a wide variety of income levels, the local food bank was there to send about 40 lbs of food home with every family. Unfortunately they did so in blue bags with gigantic foodbank logos on them and words on the side (in huge letters, in English and Spanish): “Fill this bag with HEALTHY foods!” Families that I KNOW have trouble making ends meet were unwilling to take the bags, maybe because as a culture we’ve become so ready to look down on “hand outs” and the bags made it so obvious that’s what this was. (We took some – the volunteers from the food bank told us they couldn’t take any of the stuff back, so piles and piles of onions and potatoes and bread were still sitting on the cafeteria tables this morning.) I hope some of the teachers slip them in kids’ backpacks before they leave for the weekend. But it was a good reminder – no child who’s un- or under-fed over the weekend is bringing that situation on him or herself. This story brings so many of us to tears thinking about those children – so finding a way to feed them, not to shame them, is our first calling.

  17. Alyssa K says

    I really am having a hard time believing this. Instead of being happy that Crystal is encouraging giving, we are turning this into a argument about what type of organizations are doing the giving? Why is there so much animosity when the heart of compassion and sharing is at the core of both the post and what you seem to be supportive of?

    • Nicole says

      When you know more about a subject, you try to share that information so people can “give” in a smarter way. I suspect there are topics that you know about and if it was brought up, you would want to share what you know to be truth or the “better way” to help. As Elizabeth said, we’re talking about – this is good, but let’s take it to the next level. Or at least hear that it would be “better to” give more nutritious food rather than a case of ChefBoyardee in a BPA can with fillers, etc. Something a person may not have thought of, but now would think of. All while still saying, “Yes, give! Yes, help the kids.”

      I also spoke of the FoodBank summer programs. I am not against this subject, I am not a naysayer that is ‘in the dark’.

      The suggestions I gave would hopefully spark “thought” in what people give for donations, ideas for their own community food donations, and to give people the idea to contact healthy food corporations and ask for in-kind donations to put in their backpacks.

      Ideas. Not condemnation.

    • Leighann says

      If you’re talking about my comments, then you have to actually read what I posted.

      I wanted to remind people that there are lots of organizations out there to help, not just religious organizations. It isn’t an argument, it is stepping up and sharing that *everyone* can chip in and help, regardless of religious affiliation.

      There have been several times I’ve read posts on here and gotten discouraged because I thought “These charities are only religious based.” It’s nice to know there are secular charities out there who want to help feed children, too.

      None of my posts were written with anything other than the desire to help people. If you read animosity in it, you should try re-reading them (and realize that :-) is a smiley face, not a typo!).

      • lavender says

        I appreciate your comments Leighann. I’m not particularly religious myself and I’ve often felt like that limits my options for volunteering and charity – not that I don’t/wouldn’t support a religious charity but for some types of volunteer work you either have to apply and have a testimony-type essay on an application or participate in religious education activities as part of the work, and I find myself uncomfortable with that.

        I do enjoy enjoy reading the articles about helping people regardless of who is initiating the act, I just wanted to comment that I understand what you’re saying – and that it was only said with the best of intentions!

      • Alyssa K says

        I’m glad to hear it, although I still think it’s strange that a blogger would post an example of a way to give and you would reply as you did. But maybe I was just mis-reading it.

        I am also very glad to hear that you are involved with giving.

        During hard times (many medical problems, problems with our home) my family also often struggled to keep food on the table. While there were government programs like WIC and food stamps, they didn’t help us. I have an autistic son with severe food allergies and reactions to chemicals, and EVERY food provided by WIC gave him diarrhea. The WIC woman appologized, but said that there was nothing she could do even just to accomodate his food allergies. We didn’t quite qualify for food stamps, but the reality of the struggle was still there.

        Going through this opened my eyes to just how little help there is for people in need. These programs from the government have actually made people colder toward people in need… they have given people a kind of “well, they can get help if they really want to” sort of attitude, and label parents who struggle as irresponsible or undeserving of children, etc.

        But that isn’t the way things really are. Good people get sick. Good people have bad things happen, and the help just isn’t there.

        I am glad to hear that you see this as well.

  18. says

    Am I the only one wondering why there isn’t also some investigating as to WHY the kids aren’t being fed on the weekends? Are the parents unaware of other programs available to provide food to everyone? Or do they get those benefits but misuse them? Are there other kids in those homes (preschool aged, or older kids not in that particular school) also going hungry?

    It’s a beautiful idea but I can’t help but wonder “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day but teach him to fish and…” you know the rest. Obviously it is not the child’s fault and he shouldn’t have to suffer. But it would be good to get to the root of the situation.

      • says

        Right. Like I said above, are the kids going hungry because the parents failed to apply for foodstamps? Or do the families get benefits but they are insufficient? Getting to the root of why there is no food at home for the child could solve the bigger problem. Maybe the families don’t know how to apply for foodstamps. Maybe they need to read Crystal’s grocery shopping posts on how to budget what they do have to go further. Maybe the church could also do a couponing class or a food coop or a summer community garden.

        In the past, I worked as a grocery store cashier. I would see people regularly, who would pay with food stamps and buy junk. It wouldn’t be enough to last a week let alone a month but then all their benefit would be used up. Few of the people I checked out who paid with food stamps would utilize coupons. Most did not buy only staples. The reality that I saw was people buying expensive name brand items that failed to meet the nutritional needs of a child. I realize it is their right to buy whatever is allowed under the program (filet mignon and velveeta is, while soap and tp is not, but cheez whiz is yet a rotisserie chicken is not). I would also observe that many recipients would have hair and nails done and drive nicer cars than people who paid cash for their food. This is my own experience and I’m not generalizing to say that everyone is like this. But getting to the root of why these kids are going hungry and why the parents don’t have money for food would be key in sustaining a program.

        I personally know people who game the system so that they can buy other stuff with their money and collect benefits, not having to pay for formula, food, bus passes and such. It’s awful. The kids suffer for the parent’s bad behavior.

        • says

          I know a couple of families on food stamps who use coupons and who buy beans, rice, and apples, along with other healthy foods, with their food stamps.

          However, in our area, the number of homeless children is HUGE. They don’t have access to coupons. There is a community garden here, however, the expense of getting there is prohibitive to many, because they can’t afford the bus fare.

        • Stephanie says

          Thank you for posting the question that came to my mind, Jessica. I don’t understand how you can be in this country and go hungry. The only reason that comes to my mind is parental neglect. If these kids are being neglected, I feel that we have an obligation to education the parents and/or remove the children from the parent’s care and place them somewhere that the child will get the things that he or she needs and deserves! Food stamp benefits exceed my grocery budget 4 times! If you are poor and can’t afford the help, there are certainly places where you can go for assistance. If you choose not to feed your kids, then you don’t deserve them.

          • Aisha H. says

            Stephanie,
            You can be assured most of the working poor and homeless care about their children a great deal. I highly encourage you to research about poverty in America and why thousands go without food or shelter. Parents have to make incredible difficult choices; like whether to pay the bills or rent or feed their children.

          • says

            Stephanie,

            Most food banks only give 1 or 2 bags of groceries a month to needy families. That doesn’t go far.
            Not everyone qualifies for food stamps, nor so they want to go that route.

            Imagine a family where the father was laid off several years ago. The family still cannot find work. They have lost their home, and they have no extended family who can help. They are now homeless. Does this mean they do not deserve their children? Of course not! We have many homeless children in this nation, whose parents are trying very, very hard to find work–ANY work. In my city, 20% of the people are unemployed. Many are underemployed, including my own family. If you’ve never lived in poverty, you may not understand, but that doesn’t mean that children should be taken away from their parents.

            Feeding the hungry is one of the most Christ-like things that you can do.

          • says

            In addition to the issues surrounding affording food itself, remember too that there may not be money for the power that’s needed to refrigerate or cook. And if there is power, in some places landlords of subsidized housing are not required (or requirements are not enforced) to provide working kitchen facilities.

            There are many, many intersecting issues and challenges around hunger beyond the actual purchasing of food.

        • Sara says

          I know 3 families that abuse the food stamp program. The worst of the 3 is a couple with a 3 year old son that get $950 a MONTH in food stamps. They buy expensive phones and decent clothes. The mom and son are on WIC in addition to the $950.
          I can’t even imagine getting almost $1000 to spend on food each month for free.
          There are plenty of families that would starve if not on the program, but so many that are abusing the system.

        • diana says

          Jessica, our family benefits greatly from the food stamp program. We are one of the few to use coupons and are wise with our purchases. I can buy so much healthy food and if I’m careful even organic things with the benefits. On top of that our state allows purchase of seeds and plants for a garden with food stamp money. All year I watch what I’m spending to save for seeds and plants for the spring. I know it’s frustrating to see people use it incorrectly. I feel the same when I see a mom pass up grapes at $.79/lb and go for fruit in syrup instead. I’ve made it a goal to help educate others when I can. To have extra money for groceries like this has helped our family in so many ways.

          • Ashley says

            Honestly I am frustrated by how out of touch people can be with what is going on around them…
            My sister is a very responsible parent and she loves her child with all of her heart. She is also a single parent due to divorce (and trust me, it was not her fault.) She is a school teacher, but barely makes enough to survive! Between her rent and utilities…not cable and all of those things (she can’t afford the luxuries), she can hardly keep her head above water. She makes $1000 too much a year to qualify for government programs. As far as food, there are days that she does not eat in order to feed her child. It kills me to see some of the comments from people on here. I understand that it is difficult to understand how people end up in situations where they can barely feed their kids…but it happens to hardworking, responsible and educated people as well.

        • anna says

          From personal experience, its hard to think when hungry. I’m great at couponing now. But back then, all my energy was focused on not getting evicted and not listening to my stomach growl. It wasn’t until a worker at WIC told us about getting foodstamps did we realize there was help. We cant really know what’s going on at home with these kids parents. Some kind of follow up event inviting the students to come with parents could help.

    • Leighann says

      Getting to the root of the problem and ending poverty and homelessness in the United States is a laudable goal! It’s also very hard to do, but if we all work together, with the spirit of giving and compassion, then I am sure we can come up with something :-)

      I’ve always loved the “teach a man to fish” phrase, because teaching and sharing skills and information is one of the best ways to improve!

  19. says

    In our city of Las Vegas, there are MANY children who are homeless. Some are given backpacks of food to help them. At 3 schools, MOST of the children in attendance are homeless.

    Many are asking WHY the children do not have food at home. It is because they cannot afford to have food at home. Some do not have homes. They get free breakfast and free lunch at school, but at home their parents do not have food.

    I know many are shocked to hear that some parents cannot feed their children, but it is true.

    We have many homeless and low income children here. And I’ll bet if everyone looked, and asked their local school districts, they would find out about the homeless children in their areas.

    In adddition to needing food, many children are lacking socks and underwear. Used clothing is sometimes given to families, or they find something at a garage sale, but no one sells used socks and underwear (most of the time). In our area (the 6th largest school district in the nation) there are many children who go to school without socks and underwear.

    I know a young man who did an Eagle Scout project in our area to collect socks and underwear. This is an ongoing need, however.

    The struggle for basic needs is very real, and it is ongoing. There are many who are grateful to have a roof over their heads, but they cannot provide food.

    Please be understanding of those who are struggling. I found out a week and a half ago that the REAL unemployment number in Las Vegas is 20%. 1 in 17 houses is currently in foreclosure here. Our city is struggling the most in the nation, and it’s only getting worse.

    I know my own family is grateful to have food on the table, and a roof overhead, but the struggle is very, very difficult, and it is only getting harder for us. Please be kind to those families who struggle.

  20. says

    It breaks my heart to hear of kids going hungry… What a wonderful opportunity to give and share. Thanks for posting about this program!

  21. Michelle says

    Wow, as our involvement with Compassion International grows, it has been on my heart how to also be more involved with needs (unseen by me currently) in my own community. Thank you for sharing this.

  22. diana says

    My son’s school is a recipient of this program and my husband donates his time to make the pick ups and drop offs. It’s been a blessing for our family. While we don’t need the food it’s wonderful to have a chance to help out. I know many of the kids at my son’s school do benefit from the extra food.

  23. Jennifer says

    A few months ago we had a letter come home from school asking if we needed a program like this. It made me feel blessed that even though we are struggling there is never a day my children are hungry.

    Warms my heart that God is working through you to reach these kids!

  24. Cher says

    Our church passes out shopping bags after mass with a list of needed items attached. It has been wildly successful.

  25. Faith says

    I for one am very thankful for programs like this. My family has been hit VERY hard by the economy. We do not qualify for food stamps, but its not because of the income requirements or citizenship requirements. There are some other factors that play into deciding on whether or not we get food stamps. So I just want to thank everyone Religious or Non Religious. Thank you for remembering people like my family. Thank you for not judging the families that receive the backpacks. Thank you for not questioning how I budget my money. I also want to reiterate when it comes to a can of vegetables or fresh vegetables. The winner is always the cheapest option. I don’t have the luxury of always thinking about what’s the healthiest for my family instead I’m simply trying to figure out how I’m going to feed our family of five for $20/ week

    • says

      Faith,

      I feed my family of 8 for $100 a month or less. This YEAR I have only spent $14 out of pocket (I bought margarine), plus $35 from my grandmother (a Christmas gift; I bought 50 pounds of oats with it) on food.

      We haven’t had more than that to spend on food, and I don’t anticipate it changing anytime soon. I understand what you mean when you say the cheapest option always wins–because it does at my house, too.

      Our income has dropped every year for the last 5 years, and this year is the worst.

      I wrote a piece about building your pantry even while you are living from it (in other words, not shopping for food at all). I thought it might be of benefit to you; you can read it here:

      http://www.theprudenthomemaker.com/index.php/frugal-living/when-you-need-food

      • Ashley says

        Brandy…I absolutely LOVE your blog. I just need you to pop by and give me some in home lessons on being frugal:)! Maybe help me plant a garden…I’m completely LOST!

      • Faith says

        Thanks so much for the helpful link. We’re making it and even get the occasional treat for example this morning we had eggs, fresh fruit, and cinnamon rolls for our breakfast. I’m finding that scratch cooking is really the best way to go for our family. I just really felt touched when I read all the comments of people who feel called to help during this tight economic time.

        • Gretchen in HB says

          Brandy, I just wanted to thank you for your compassionate and helpful comments on this post. Warms my heart, and I’ll be popping over to check out your blog shortly. :-)

  26. Jen says

    Our church is starting a ministry based off of the same concept, but aimed at children in the foster care system. Most of the kids get pulled out of their home with no warning, and then placed into a home where they don’t know anyone there, or have any of their own stuff. So we’re starting putting together “First Night Bags.” The backpacks/bags will have their own blanket made by someone from the church (or store bought :)) their own toothbrush and toothpaste, stuffed animals, hairbrush, etc., so they’ll have a bag to bring with them as they get moved from home to home. Just another idea people can be thinking about! There’s so many ways to help out!

    • kelliinkc says

      Jen, what a fabulous program!! Just wondering if you are in the greater KC area? I would love to participate/help with this. Foster Care has been on my heart the past few years. I don’t know why. I was never in Foster Care, but, it tugs at my heart. I came across the Red Scarf Program and still would like to do more.

      • Jen says

        Actually, we’re in Wichita (KS). If you’re interested in starting a program in your area, it’s fairly easy. We just made contact with one of our Foster Care groups, and asked if we could do it. They even said they used to have a church do it a few years ago, but they were unable to keep up with the ministry…so I know most foster care groups would at least know what you were proposing. If you’re really interested, I can ask our Orphan Care Team coordinator, and find out exactly how she proposed it. Also, one of the organizations we were considering giving the bags to is a town in Northern Kansas, so it may be closer to you than Wichita. Just reply with your email if you’re interested and I’ll give you more information. So excited to hear foster care is on your heart, it’s really an area that has great needs!

  27. says

    Reading these comments really helps a frustrated taxpayer like myself better understand what’s going on. People buying steak for the dog on food stamps while we work to stretch our fraction of a food budget is disheartening. Finding programs that help the truly needy has made this an excellent discussion.

  28. Lisa B says

    I am surpised to read that many who posted here didn’t realize that children sometimes only get food during the week. This problem is nationwide and it involves folks from all walks of life. It is so easy to say, “but why don’t they____” Reasons range from lack of information to cultural reasons. To me, the reasons don’t matter, all the matters is the child. Feeding America has a Backpack program that has been in effect for 15 years. They discreetly send home food in a backpack so a child has something to eat. http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/child-hunger/backpack-program.aspx
    Since we avid couponers and deal finders always have excess stockpiles, get ahold of Feeding America or any charity like it and see what you can do. Or go to your local school and see if they have a program like this in place and donate. One simple small action on all of our parts will feed hungry children all across America. This is the only reason that matters…feeding the children.

  29. Felicia says

    I help pack for this program, but we do it once every two weeks. We pack for 3 schools I believe now (it recently changed). We do the packing at a food pantry at a local church and some of the items come from there, more basic stuff comes from the regional food bank, and extra’s come from the Student Service Funds I believe. My 7 year old knows what’s in the mysterious blue backpacks but I told her not to mention it to anyone. One of her friends gets one and we don’t want her to be embarrased. It’s a very good program and quite humbling to think that so little food is supposed to last so long.

  30. Lydia says

    This post brought me to tears, tt hurts my heart to know that some children have to go hungry on the weekends when there is no school. Thank god for the wonderful people who help these children.

  31. Amanda says

    I get so tired of people arguing over everything. This sounds like a great program. If you can help, help. If you have a bone about it not being healthy enough, there are plenty of organic or reduced fat/sugar granola bars, baked chips, etc as healthier options. The bottom line is that kids need help. Stop bickering and do what you can.

    • mary g says

      Thank you! i was thinking the same thing after reading the first few replys and didnt even want to read anymore

  32. mary g says

    this is so sad. maybe i am just over emotional today but i cant stop crying since i read the part that said for whatever reason parents arent feeding their kids on the weekend. i could handle it alittle better if it said they dont have the money but the way it is stated (which there is nothing wrong with that part) just has me thinking the parents just dont care to feed their kids. and then thinking about the kids that are lucky enough to at least have a backpack of food its heart breaking to think of them having to make whatever they were blessed with on their own and probably sit in their room by themselves and eat it. i live in low income housing and have a hard time feeding my kids all the time but they can always go to grandmas for dinner if need be. i just cant see how a parent could not care if their child eats or not. and i know that there are food banks and food stamps as well as wic to help families that just cant afford it so the children who are not eating at home has to be because the parents just dont care to do anything about it. i just wish you could tell by looking at someone how their home life really is and if they are hurting in such a way.

  33. Caroline says

    My church and three others in the community do “Backpack Pals” for about 20-25 students at my son’s school. The premise is the same: students that don’t have enough food for the weekend are given a backpack with food that they can prepare themselves. Just today, my Sunday School class held a freewill offering lunch to raise money for Backpack Pals. We did an Olive Garden based menu with chicken parm, fettuccine alfredo, lasagna as well as salad, bread and lots of yummy desserts. No word yet on how much we raised but the hope is that the money raised will be able to cover backpacks and food for at least 15-20 more students.