If the only meals some children eat are at school, what do they eat when they’re not in school? The BackPack Program at the NE Iowa Food Bank is a program that addresses this question. The goal of the BackPack Program is to send children in need home from school with foods that are shelf-stable, kid-friendly and healthy. The foods are easily prepared and consumed when parents are working and can’t prepare meals for their children, or when there simply isn’t enough food at home for the children to eat. The food is packed into plastic grocery bags and delivered to the schools, where they are discreetly placed into children’s backpacks on Friday to go home for the weekend.
The BackPack Program is available at more than 120 sites throughout the Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s 16 county service area. These sites include schools, churches, daycare centers and community centers. Thanks to many dedicated Food Bank and school volunteers as well as community support, more than 14,000 backpacks are distributed to children each month.
Cedar Falls First UMC has a dedicated crew of volunteers from age 8 to over 80 who pack backpacks one evening a month. We usually pack over 1,000 BackPacks during our shift, and we have a good time doing it. Most of us have developed our own specialty with this program. Some are experts at assembling boxes, or opening the plastic grocery bags, or restocking food for the packing assembly line. Others are good at packing boxes on pallets or breaking down the emptied boxes for recycling. Teamwork and good conversation is a given on our Food Bank volunteer nights.