United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Backpacks Unite seeks three more sponsoring organizations
Currently in its seventh year, United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Backpacks Unite initiative feeds over 900 students in 30 schools, but three more schools are in need of sponsors.
Backpacks Unite provides nutritious weekend meals during each school year to students throughout Southwest Virginia. Because of United Way of Southwest Virginia’s partnerships with Food City, sponsoring organizations and school personnel, the initiative is one of the largest food-filled backpack distribution efforts in Southwest Virginia with a program budget of over $170,000.
Tina Camper, United Way of Southwest Virginia Director of Administration, said, “The purpose of Backpacks Unite is to ensure that students have adequate meals over the weekend, allowing them to come to school Monday ready to learn and ready to succeed.”
Camper said students who participate in backpack programs can show marked improvement in school attendance, test scores, behavior and health.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, food insecurity impairs academic development of young school-age children. They are unable to concentrate in the classroom, missing out on valuable learning opportunities and gradually fall behind their well-fed counterparts. By third grade, children who are food insecure in kindergarten see a 13 percent drop in their reading and math test scores compared to food-secure peers.
A fundraising event called Packin’ Pardners was held in Abingdon, Virginia, in 2016 to help support Backpacks Unite. The initiative is also currently supported by Speedway Children’s Charities, the UPS Foundation and 22 organizations that sponsor schools across the region.
Sponsoring organizations (sponsors) like churches, civic groups and businesses give $2,200 for a school’s weekend meals during the school year, which is matched by United Way of Southwest Virginia. Every six weeks, the sponsor picks up the food, packs the backpacks and takes the backpacks to the school. Then, food is discretely placed in the backpacks of the 24 students identified by that school’s personnel. Those students are fed each weekend, and return to school Monday ready to succeed.
Companies and organizations wishing to sponsor a school, or existing backpack programs that would like to learn more about Backpacks Unite, are encouraged to contact United Way of Southwest Virginia at 276.628.2160 or [email protected].
Individuals who are unable to sponsor, but wish to donate to the program are encouraged to visit UnitedWaySWVA.org/Backpacks-Unite.
-Submitted by Briana Morris Fillers,
Marketing and Communications Manager