Each Friday a dozen volunteers lovingly fill hundreds of bags with food for at-risk children in Seattle, Wash.
The Backpack Brigade, as the project is called, feeds nearly 400 homeless or displaced youngsters in grades K-12 who have little if anything to eat on weekends when schools are closed.
Many of the students rely solely on the free breakfasts and lunches available at school during the week. But they often are without a food source on weekends and during school breaks.
The volunteers — in partnership with a local food bank — package and deliver the filled bags on Fridays to students at 16 area schools, according to Nichelle Hilton of the YWCA of Seattle.
Volunteers with The Backpack Brigade pack each bag with items for three hearty dinners, two lunches, two healthy breakfasts, two snacks, two fruits, two drinks and sometimes fresh fruit.
The program receives funding for the food from donations, grants and “the generosity of strangers,” Hilton said.
Sadly, the number of needy children in the Seattle area continues to grow. The city currently has more than 2,400 homeless children.
One of the most pressing problems is a critical need for disposable or reusable bags.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to reclaim the bags once they are sent out with the kids,” according to Wendy Rochon, another program volunteer. “Many of these kids live in shelters, hotels or, believe it or not, in tents under overpasses.”
The group recently contacted Totally Promotional to see if we had any imperfect bags to donate. We sent them 200 drawstring bags with the hope that some will be reused for the food program or other needs.
The Backpack Brigade, officially called Seattle Central Area Food Programs, was founded by three Seattle Central Area food bank volunteers who recognized a huge need to feed homeless students on weekends.
Hilton said each volunteer has their own reason for helping.
“I can’t speak to why they volunteer, but to me it’s to know that I’m actively trying to make a difference to a student in my community,” she said. “While we can’t solve all problems, for a little kid with a little belly and a big growl, we can solve that for this weekend.”
We thank The Backpack Brigade and volunteers for similar programs across the globe who work to prevent children from going hungry.
According to organization leaders, it costs $7 to feed one child for a weekend and $250 for an entire school year.
Visit the Backpack Brigade website to donate.
Read about other ways the team at Totally Promotional is making a difference by visiting the Totally Giving Back web page.