by Lindsay Anderson
The Kids Aid Backpack Program
For ten years the Kids Aid Backpack Program has been working diligently to ensure that no child in Mesa County goes hungry over the weekends. The Backpack Program delivers bags of food to students at the end of the school week that struggle with food insecurity. Monday through Friday the schools can provide breakfasts and lunches, leaving some kids unsure of what the weekend holds.
In the beginning, the program was piloted in one elementary school with ten kids a week. As word spread, the program quickly grew to three schools and now we’re serving over 2,100 youth a week; that’s roughly 10% of Mesa County Valley School District #51’s population. Thanks to the support from our community members, all K-12 students in Mesa County now have access to food over the weekends. With a little less than half of the students qualifying for federally funded programs, we know there are more children in our community that could benefit from our program. We’re constantly working to find ways to adapt to meet the growing needs of the kids. During the 2017/2018 school year, we piloted our backpack program into two daycare centers.
2017/2018 School Year Highlights:
- Started serving fresh apples and oranges
- Piloted program in daycare centers
- Opened an endowment fund
- Provided over 68,000 bags of food
New Executive Director
Before becoming the Executive Director for Kids Aid, I was an elementary school teacher. I got to see first-hand how vital the Backpack Program was for my students. Hunger at this magnitude was not an issue that I was prepared to face, and every year, the number of students that needed a food bag on Fridays grew. No matter how engaging the lesson, it could never compete with a child’s hungry belly. Like many teachers, I shared my lunches and brought in extra snacks when I could. The demand was greater than what I could supply; especially not enough to keep their bellies full over the weekend. I was grateful that the Backpack Program could provide the kids with what I couldn’t.
The insurmountable support the community has shown our kids has been positively overwhelming, to say the least. I have never been prouder to be a member of our community as I have since I started at Kids Aid. This position has been a gift that has allowed me to see Mesa County in a new light.
More Than Just Food
The food bags not only bring six meals and three snacks for the weekend, but they also carry a sense of relief that lessens the worry of going hungry over the weekend. These little white bags of food are a symbol of love, compassion, and hope for a better future. They send the message to our kids that their community sees them, acknowledges their struggle, and is here to help.
We’ve come a long way in ten years, but we still have work to do. We thank you for your continued support as we grow our program and end local, childhood hunger one bag at a time.
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Author note: Lindsay Anderson is the Executive Director of the Kids Aid Backpack Program. Her experience as a classroom teacher has ignited her passion for combating childhood hunger.