Backpacks of Hope sparks student interest

Did you know that there is an estimated one in four children in Washington state living in households that don’t have enough food to eat?

That was mentioned in a recent report from the Children’s Alliance, which also noted that hunger is growing more rapidly in Washington state than in most other states, as published in a press release from the St. Leo Food Connection.

To combat the problem of child hunger, Backpacks of Hope was started by Kevin Glackin-Coley, director of St. Leo Food Connection, in January of 2008.

He got the idea from a conference he went to where someone else was implementing a similar program. They started out by serving  50 kids at Tacoma’s McCarver Elementary School. Counselors chose the students who were at highest risk as those who would receive these backpacks.

Now they have expanded to 14 schools in Tacoma and will serve between 400 and 500 students this year. The St. Leo Food Connection’s website states that the backpack program represents a new and innovative way of providing families with food resources to meet the basic nutritional needs of children. Funding from the program comes from many sources.

A typical backpack includes two bags full of food to last over a weekend. Inside, each bag contains 12 items that cover each meal of the day such as canned soups and granola bars for snacks.

Children receive the backpacks on Friday and bring them back on Monday to be replenished the following Friday.

Jasmine Kaneshiro is the program director on campus. She works closely with the Spirituality, Service & Social Justice office on the service project.

There was an interest meeting to kick-start Backpacks of Hope on-campus Wednesday, Sept. 13. Between 10 and 15 people came to volunteer and listen to Glackin-Coley explain the primary goals of the program.

One interested volunteer, Rebecca Short, was particularly enthusiastic  and hopes to encourage activism.

She will be sponsoring a water balloon fight on Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. on Todd Field as a fundraiser.