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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Blessings in a Backpack (Day 12)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story (or a link to your post on your blog) and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

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

photo credit

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  • Sakura says:

    Thank you for sharing the details of your backpack program. I’ve emailed our principal at the school to discuss starting this same program in our school. I have neighbors that want to donate and help out with this project. You list of kid friendly, easy to prepare foods really helped. Thanks again.

  • Sandra says:

    What a wonderful thing to do! Thanks.

  • Emily says:

    Are we from the same church?! I were something very similar recently, and the program at our church is also called Backpack Buddies! 🙂 I’m in northeast Texas, just in case!

  • Tabitha says:

    I help run a program like this at our school. We call it backpack buddies and we drop it off at the kids houses during the day so that other kids in the school are not aware of who receives it. It is heartbreaking to know so many children in my son’s school need basic necessities. This year another mom is also running a program to assist those same kids with Christmas surprises – clothes, school supplies, and a few toys.

  • Ronda says:


    I love your website and refer my families with Glutin allergies often to check it out. I read your post above and wondered if whwere you live you have a food bank. In Michigan we have the Eastern Food bank of Michigan and it has a backpack program. It feed a child for the entire school year for 100.00. Our church opted to do it a little differently and feeds one child for 180.00 a year using a food pantry from the same food bank with added items. Just wondereing if this might be a possiblity so that you might extend your dollars too. Great job all of you are doing feeding the hungry for Jesus!

    Blessings, Ronda

  • Patty says:

    Your “little church of 40 people” is living the Gospel message in such real and fantastic ways! Thanks for sharing this inspirational story.

  • robin ingram says:

    Thank you for this article. I sell Shelf Reliance….which is largely freeze dried foods. My family cooks with it on a daily basis but we also eat it right out of he can for healthy snacking (corn, green beans, chicken, yogurt, and berries. Are a few of our favorites). The shelf life, unopened, is 25-30 years, but opened many of them still last for 2 years. This got me thinking, I wonder if there is something i could do with it to contribute. Its home party based, so I’m thinking that I can do it as a fundraiser and use the earned hostess credits to purchase the foods for the backpacks…

  • Susan says:

    This is AWESOME. Our small church, maybe 40 -50 gave backpacks this year to a local junior high school – (7th and 8th graders). We put pencils, pens, notebooks, etc. in them. We gave 30 backpacks. That led the door open for the school to know who we are, a local church, where many of the children in the area go to that junior high school. At Thanksgiving, we had the opportunity to help again.

    Your backpack ministry with the food for the weekend, is quite amazing. I pray our church will be able to do something like that for the children who may not have enough food to eat for the weekend.

    Thank you for posting your testimonial…Keep doing the Lord’s work – you can never go wrong. Praise God.


  • Audrey says:

    It is so awesome that you have spearheaded this in your community! Thanks for giving specifics about how you do it.

  • Laurie says:

    What a beautiful blessing to those in need. Our church supports our local neighborhood school with our version of the backpack program. I make sure to donate as often as possible.

  • Dana says:

    This brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. This reader is doing an amazing outreach. Thank you for the idea!

  • Sabine says:

    This brought tears to eyes! It is so heartbreaking to know that their are children that are not being feed over the weekend and I got thinking, how many do I pass at my child’s school in the same situation. I will be contact with my child’s teacher to see if my daughters class would like to do something like this since their class is doing a month of how to help people in need

  • Roberta Dunaway says:

    As a parent of a child that has benefited from a similar program in my town I would like to thank everyone who helps support the 1st-3rd grade children in their community. 65% of the children at this elementary school were income eligible (on the free or reduced breakfast/lunch program) for the program and received a bag of food for the weekend.

    The school was also in a program where they received one serving of fresh fruit or veggie each week for each student to eat in class or take home depending on what was going on in the classroom.

  • Caroline says:

    This was such a wonderful post and I’m so glad it was part of this series.

    May I suggest for individuals or groups looking to do a similar project to first check with your local food bank. Through the national network of food banks (Feeding America), every county in every state has a food bank that is working to provide nutritious food to those in need in our communities. Many have implemented what is called the Backpack for Kids Program. This program is great for 2 reasons, 1) food banks have a lot more resources and program information in order to work with schools to get one started and 2) food banks have a lot of buying power! If you use your efforts to fundraise to support this program through a local food bank you’ll be able to help that many more children! And volunteers are needed to pack the bags each week, so it’s still a very hands on project for a group.

    Thank you for recognizing such wonderful charity work with this post!

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