Backpack Buddies benefits South students

Isabelle Neal, Staff Writer

Backpack Buddies is a program that was implemented by Bloomington’s Community Kitchen. The program provides backpacks full of food to students of low income families who may not have a way to find meals outside of the ones the ones they receive during the school day.

“The main goal of the program is provide additional food supplies to help children and their families with their weekend food needs so that children don’t suffer nutritional deficits just because they are out of school and don’t have access to those meals,” Vicki Pierce, director of the Backpack Buddies program said.

The idea for the program came from a similar operation in Arizona. A board member at Community Kitchen heard about the idea and immediately began looking into implementing a similar program in Bloomington. The program started in 2005 at Fairview Elementary, and today there are approximately 270 students total enrolled in the program.

Currently, there are about 20 students at South enrolled in Backpack Buddies, but the benefits are immense.

“Kids are able to use this to get them through the weekend. It’s a huge impact,” Assistant Principal Cindy Chrzastowski said.

To help Backpack Buddies grow to support more students, donations are vital.

“We need donations of food, and lots of them. We use about two tons of food each week for the program. So, for a school year of about 36 weeks, we need over 100,000 pounds of food,” Pierce said.

“Students can always bring in food, but if we get monetary donations as well, we can go shopping to specifically help families’ needs,” Chrzastowski said. South’s Panther Activity Council will begin working with Community Kitchen this year to help fill this need, and support South students enrolled in Backpack Buddies.

“This is a program very dear to my heart. It helps our kids and families in the community. We need to do this as a community,” Chrzastowski said.