Raleigh | April 9, 2015 — For most children the real fun starts when school is dismissed on Fridays; however for many, it’s not a good circumstance and without the Junior League of Raleigh some students would have a dire situation. More than 50 percent of students in Wake County receive free or reduced lunch, and those same students sometimes have little or nothing to eat between the end of the school day on Friday and the beginning of the school week on Monday.
Thanks to an initiative called Backpack Buddies, approximately 2,000 students are provided a take-home backpack filled with nutritious food for the weekend. This program was implemented to reduce the effects of childhood hunger but has grown to become so much more. Not only is it supplying meals, it is also providing healthy snacks to increase awareness about proper nutrition and diet.
Recently, Raleigh’s Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS) made a huge delivery, and 72 of the 116 students at Hope Elementary, a small charter school, took home backpacks including fresh fruit. Kyle Abrams works as IFFS Director of Children’s Nutrition, where the main mission of the shuttle and mobile markets is to provide direct distributions of groceries and fresh produce to low income neighborhoods.
Teacher Brittney Williamson said there is a definite need among the students. “As a teacher, you go home and you have food on the weekends. To see a child who doesn’t have it, it’s sad,” she said. “And you want to do something about it every chance you get.”
Co-captain of BackPack Buddies Samantha Hatem stated that this is the first time the JLR has added fresh fruit to the bags. Samantha and fellow Co-captain Astra Barnes came up with the idea after a brainstorming session on how to improve the service that the League was already providing. Together, they decided to make the addition of fresh food one of the team’s primary goals for the year. The committee made a financial plea to JLR members at the first General Members Meeting, and were able to fund the fresh fruit program for the entire year in just one week.
“We were so impressed that our members were so willing to support healthier food options for the kids we serve,” stated Hatem.
In the past year, the program has provided kids with more than 68,000 packed bags, and Hope Elementary is just one of the many success stories that speak to the efforts being made to erase hunger and poverty in our community.
The JLR is making great strides with this initiative, and it is the first organization to work with IFFS to deliver fresh foods in the students’ weekend bags. It would be impossible for BackPack Buddies to have such an impact without proper support. For that reason Hatem encourages donations and participation. She stated, “ Anyone can assist…hosting a food drive would be so helpful. We truly need the food donations because they have helped sustain our team over and over this year.”
For many students and parents, Backpack Buddies provides hope and a bridge of support while also educating children about healthy eating. Interested parties can drop off donations at IFFS headquarters at 1001 Blair Drive, Raleigh 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday through
About the Junior League of Raleigh
The Junior League of Raleigh is the local chapter of the Association of Junior Leagues International, an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. The Junior League reaches out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in, and commitment to, volunteerism. Now in its 85th year, the Junior League of Raleigh boasts nearly 1,700 women supporting community organizations around Wake County.
About Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is an innovative hunger-relief organization serving seven counties in and around the Triangle. IFFS believes hunger IS fixable if the community works together to do two things: create sources of healthy food in every low-income neighborhood and grow opportunities for people to provide for themselves by learning job skills or growing their own food. From BackPack Buddies to nutrition education, mobile markets to community gardens, culinary job training to urban agriculture training, IFFS goes directly to people in need and create what works to empower them. IFFS’ programs also focus on long-term workforce development, community economic development, skills training and nutrition education. Friday. For more information about the program or to donate food and/or funds, please contact the Junior League of Raleigh’s Backpack Buddies coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.