Making Sure No Child Is Ever Hungry: Spotlight on Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth

HWINS K A Moving DifferenceKids are back to school and there’s a buzz in the air as the summer heat is replaced by a shift into fall. My kiddos are still in the preschool and baby stages, but even I can feel the change in the winds when school starts. As a former educator, I’ve always associated this time of year with new beginnings, and I get excited to take on some new challenges.

As I prepared for the September Accelerent breakfast and was searching for a not-for-profit organization to highlight, I was thrilled Meegan and John Campbell with Studdard Moving approached me about Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth. It’s a community-driven organization that ensures kids on the free and reduced lunch program at school have food supplies to get them through the weekend.

Feeling Hungry

Unfortunately, way too many kids these days need food support both at school and at home. According to No Kid Hungry, more than 16 million children live in food-insecure homes. Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food. Many of those kids eat breakfast and lunch each day thanks to the free and reduced lunch programs at our K-12 public schools (more than 23.5 million kids qualify nationally). But when the weekend comes along, many go without or with very little food until Monday morning rolls around.

While the majority of kids living with food insecurity are found in urban areas, small towns also experience this issue. Leavenworth, KS, where Studdard Moving has one of their locations, has one of the highest rates of kids qualifying for the free and reduced lunch program in our region. About 65 percent of Leavenworth students qualify for the program.

To address the unique needs of the military and prison-associated families in Leavenworth, Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth was started in 2009 by six community churches. In their first year, the program served 99 children, and over the years, it has grown steadily to serve 750 students in grades kindergarten through third.

Moving Forward

Studdard Moving got involved in the early days of the program. The Campbells were approached to help warehouse and deliver the food-filled backpacks to four Leavenworth elementary schools and the local Head Start Program. Studdard Moving is joined by 25 churches and civic groups that help Backpack Buddies raise money to buy the food, assemble and warehouse the food bundles, and deliver it to the elementary schools.

On average, 200 volunteers “touch” the food during any given month. They are involved in many ways: unloading the food when it arrives at Studdard’s from the warehouse; sorting the food for each school; loading the food on trucks; taking it to the churches who pack it for the students; delivering the backpacks to each school; and distributing the food to the kids each Friday.

Everyone involved with the Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth is a volunteer. Every dollar raised goes directly to purchasing food for the students. On an average month, they receive 35,000 food items, which means each child receives 10-12 food items every Friday to ease their weekend hunger. The bags usually contain:

  • 2 shelf stable milks
  • 1 juice box (100% juice)
  • 1 large can of protein (ex: Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs)
  • 1 other small can of protein
  • 1 bowl of cereal
  • 1 container of fruit
  • 1 small can of vegetables
  • 2-3 snack items such as pretzels, crackers, gummi fruit snack

“$150 covers the Backpack Buddy food for one child for the entire school year.”

To feed 750 kids for the 2016-2017 school year, Backpack Buddies is raising $112,500. The organization raises money throughout the year, so donations are welcome anytime to purchase food.

Making a Difference

When I think about that it only takes $150 to feed one child over the weekend for an entire school year, I am pumped up to bring this worthy cause to our community and our fellow Accelerent companies. We can make a direct difference in the lives of many children with our donations, and we can be confident that every penny supports kids because of all the volunteers in Leavenworth who pull everything together.

I also want to express how impressed I am with Studdard Moving. When Haas & Wilkerson Insurance considers new opportunities to financially support and serve our community as volunteers, we really like it when the cause fits our purpose and passion. The team members at Studdard Moving are experts in warehousing and moving just about anything. Storing and delivering the Backpack Buddies food was a natural extension for their company. It allowed them to serve their local community and make a difference in the lives of kids. And that’s pretty awesome in my book!

I hope you will join Haas & Wilkerson Insurance in supporting Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth. Remember it only takes $150 to feed one child each weekend for a school year. Will you consider being a hero for a kid experiencing food insecurity? Please donate here: Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth

Kimberly Wilkerson loves kids, dogs and all things Kansas City. She even loves the Royals when they aren’t in first place! As a former educator turned insurance broker, she heads up community involvement and support efforts for Haas & Wilkerson Insurance as an owner and vice president.

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