Ever since visiting Harvesters back in June, you could say that my “senses have been heightened” to noticing the food drives all around me throughout the year. This time of year they are wonderfully rampant, and food banks thrive on the charitable hearts of others during the holiday season to get their shelves stocked and help, help, help in any capacity they can.
Items donated to food banks are distributed through all kinds of avenues of people, organizations, shelters, etc., and one of the distribution avenues that really (!) pulls at me and twists my heart a good bit is the backpack programs, where backpacks are stuffed with food for kids to eat throughout the weekend since they’re without their free breakfast and lunch at school.
Admittedly, prior to a few months ago, I never gave a program like this a second thought. I knew they existed, but my knowledge beyond that was zilch. I’m embarrassed by this ignorance because this kind of hunger struggle has been right under my nose in every city I’ve ever lived in.
Putting together these backpacks is a heck of a ton of work, and programs like this survive and thrive thanks to volunteers and food bank organizations (such as Harvesters) that work tirelessly through the logistics to get as many kids fed as possible.
- Shelters such as Harvesters need varieties of nutritious food to fill the backpacks.
- They also need donations in order to provide the backpacks that will be filled with food.
- They need many, many, many volunteers to pack these bags each and every week and distribute them.
- So frequently, food banks such as Harvesters hear stories of kids not eating much of the food they were given because they shared it with their family and friends who were also hungry.
- So now the kids are still hungry, and though some may speak up and request more food for siblings, parents, etc., most do not for weeks or months at a time until the issue is uncovered.
The truth is, low-income families struggle to feed children during school holiday breaks and snow days (days without free or reduced-priced meals). The need for the Harvesters BackSnack program MORE THAN DOUBLES (!) during the upcoming holiday school break.
Did you know that more than 100,000 students rely on free or reduced-priced meals at school? Can you imagine the work that would go into getting every single one of these kids a backpack full of food every single weekend if necessary? The enormity of a project like this is not lost on me, but it’s a reality in many cities across the country where children are extra hungry during long weekends and holidays.
This is why every single volunteer effort of any capacity is worthwhile. A little bit from different groups here and there adds up tremendously.
If you or your organization are looking for a worthwhile way to give back this holiday season or are looking for a way to give back throughout 2018, consider supporting your local Backpack program, or if you’re local to the Kansas City area, contact Harvesters to get on board with their incredible BackSnack program.
PS: If you have some kiddos in your life that you’d like to teach about giving back and general hunger awareness, here’s the cutest idea! It’s called Harvey’s Holiday Box Hunt. For the holiday season, Harvesters created an original game that encourages children to give back by challenging them to find holiday food items around the house before donating them to a family in need. Think “Elf on a Shelf-esque”. Here’s the full set of printables and instructions.
Do you have any experience with programs like the BackSnack initiative? Why do you think food banks thrive with volunteers during the holiday season when hunger is actually an “all year, all the time” issue?