I have always loved the mission behind the Backpack program and all the work that they do, so when they asked for volunteers to help pack food packs, I was absolutely excited to be able to help. The process itself was very easy and efficient. First volunteers helped to double bag all of the food packs. Then, all the volunteers lined up in an assembly line fashion, and helped place one food item at a time into the pack, and then pass it down to the next person with the next food item. Each food pack is assembled with food items that are portable, safe (non-glass), and can be combined to fulfill daily fruit, protein, dairy and carbohydrate requirements. For this packing session we used peanut butter, and canned chicken as our protein component, mac and cheese for our carbohydrate and dairy, and oatmeal for carbohydrate, and raisins and banana chips for our fruit component.
|Our packing assembly line|
I was amazed at how fast the time went! We were there for a total of an hour and half, but it seemed to go by in the blink of an eye! And what was even more impressive, was how quickly the food packs piled up. We placed finished food packs into banana boxes for storage and by the end of our session, the whole entry way was filled with boxes! It was incredible to see how much of an impact we were going to be able to make from just the little effort we expounded.
|Our finished food packs!|
One of the criticisms that Darlene receives about the Backpack program is that it is only a temporary solution, or a "bandaid" to much larger problem. And while she does not deny the complexity that makes up the issue of hunger, she does see the program as an investment. If we are able to keep our children feed and healthy, both in and out of school, they can become more healthy, and focused. It's then these engaged kids who are going to learn better in school, and a result be able to give back more to our communities, and society as a whole. When we invest in our children, we invest in the future. Having access to healthy and nutritious food should not be a privilege only held by the lucky few, but a right for all.
I feel very lucky that I got to make an investment that night, if only for an hour and a half. In that short period of time, Darlene estimated that we will be able to feed over 500 families with the food packs we made. I can't think of a more worthy cause to invest my time in.
|Our volunteer team!|
Check out the Food Bank website for volunteer opportunities like the one we participated in, or locations where you can donate non-perishable food items like peanut butter and tuna cans. (The Food Bank appreciates all donations, but in particular protein donations). The website can be found here: http://foodbankst.org/index.asp?pageId=154
Also keep an eye out for events on campus that go to support the Backpack Program, like donations at retail locations. Bonus and ID Express accepted.