“The most at-risk students for food insecurity are also the ones who are most affected by the achievement gap and poor academic outcomes that can have lifelong effect,” states the Backpack Society. “By providing weekend food, we hope students will be well fed over the weekend and can come in Monday mornings, ready to learn.”
It’s vital for students to have breakfast before school or a snack on their way to soccer practice because having an insufficient diet can lead to learning, health, and behavioral problems. Without the proper nutrients, students are not able to focus and succeed in their academics.
“In Colorado, 533,650 people are facing hunger, and of them, 129,900 are children,” states the nonprofit organization Feeding America.
How can we help the children and their families who are struggling with food insecurity?
The Backpack Society, a nonprofit organization in Highlands Ranch, aims to remove food insecurity obstacles for students so they can grow, learn, and thrive. Yet, many children who experience food insecurity tend to be too embarrassed to reach out for help. The community in Highlands Ranch and the surrounding area tend to have more wealth than others, which can make it even more challenging for people affected to reach out.
“The stigma and pride is really hard to overcome, especially in our community,” says June Everett, the Founder and Executive Director of the Backpack Society. “In the high schools and middle schools, we found that kids won’t ask for help if they have to put their name down on a piece of paper.”
To help students feel less embarrassed when asking for food, the Backpack Society offers a Student Program that delivers bags weekly to schools. The bags have six meals and snacks. Rather than a child’s name written on a sheet, the schools will hand out the bags to students in need.
For families who heavily rely on school-provided lunches, there is a Family Program that allows parents to pick different foods and snacks that will get them through the weekend. School breaks can also be challenging for families dealing with food insecurity, so the Backpack Society supplies them with enough food so they don’t go hungry.
Even though they provide food to families for no cost, they don’t have a healthy food agenda or a nutritional guide they’re forcing onto families.
“We’re all moms. As much as we want the kids to eat healthy, we know that they sometimes want the chips or the snacks,” says Everett. “We know they’re going to burn that off so quick anyways as children, so let’s get them a full belly so they can focus on school.”
The Backpack Society is always looking for volunteers to further their mission, and no long-term commitment is required when volunteering. Another way to support the Backpack Society is by donating food or money.