Backpacks for Kids

December 31, 2009  • 

In the small town of Clyde, TX, where most of the population live at or below the poverty level, the Backpacks for Kids program is making a difference. The program identifies food insecure kids with the help of their school system and discreetly delivers a backpack of food full of nutritious, kid-friendly, nonperishable items to these children each Friday. Rachel Laughlin connected with the Food Bank of West Central Texas in 2008 to start the program in Clyde, which serves over 70 children. As of 2009, the overall program serves over 550 children at 23 locations in west Texas.

The school teachers identify children who are eating meals at school, but are showing signs of hunger and possibly not eating at home in the evening. A notice is sent home to the parents for permission for their child to participate, as well as to find out about any dietary restrictions or allergies and any other siblings that are living at the home – Backpacks for Kids sends a sack of food home for each child living in the house.

The teachers have reported an increase in attendance and attentiveness in the children once they start receiving the backpacks. Rachel says, “This past year, there was a child whose teacher told me that he was a handful and that most teachers didn’t know what to do with him…I got a phone call on the last day of school for me to come by. I went to our room and in walked some of our backpack kids with a giant thank you banner where they had all signed their names…That one little boy came over and just laid his head in my lap and didn’t want to leave the room. This is why I love this program. These kids are being changed just by giving them a basic necessity – food.

The reason I’m so passionate about this program is that I would have received a backpack when I was a child had it been around,” Rachel shares. “I know what it’s like to go to bed without a meal. I know how hard it is to concentrate when you are hungry. I don’t want any child to go through what I went through, and I also want them to know that they don’t have to stay in that place. I want these kids to know that someone cares that they are hungry.”

To learn more about this program, visit the Backpack for Kids section of the Food Bank of West Central Texas’ website.