The Weekend Backpack Snack Program at Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) has received a grant for $2,000 from the Sodexo Foundation, supported by Youth Service America.
The grant will enable CKWL to educate 600 local youths (ages five to 25) about the issues of childhood hunger before they volunteer to fill backpacks with food to ensure local elementary school children don’t go hungry.
"We're hoping for a wide variety of groups," said Jenny Davidson, coordinator of student service-learning at W&L. "We're expecting W&L and VMI students to volunteer, of course, and some of our resident advisors are already signing up their halls for this. But we want local Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and youth groups from churches as well."
The backpack program started in 2009 as a partnership between CKWL and Natural Bridge Elementary School and this year has expanded to cover all seven elementary schools in the Rockbridge area. Throughout the program, CKWL delivers backpacks filled with non-perishable food to the schools and targets children who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. "While the children are guaranteed lunch Monday through Friday, by sending food home with them in backpacks on Friday nights, we can ensure that they have food over the weekend," said Davidson.
"We want people to come with open minds and ready to listen for about 10 to 15 minutes about childhood hunger in this area and then to spend the rest of the hour helping to pack the backpacks," she added. "So it will be a one-time service opportunity for one hour on a Wednesday afternoon."
Students who receive the backpacks, as a percentage of the student body, are: 64.21 percent at Natural Bridge Elementary; 58.04 percent at Fairfield Elementary; 51.56 percent at Mountain View Elementary; 42.79 percent at Central Elementary; 41.94 percent at Enderly Heights Elementary; 38.98 percent at F.W. Kling Elementary and 20.12 percent at Harrington Waddell Elementary.
"We're really excited," said Davidson, "because $2,000 is huge for the Campus Kitchen budget. The money will cover some of the educational materials on hunger awareness but also some of the food items for the backpacks. It's very exciting to know that there are corporations and foundations willing to support education on hunger issues and to make a difference in our local community."
Any group wishing to volunteer should contact Jenny Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (540) 458-4669.