Bob Kostka (pictured), President of Georgetown Backpack Buddies (GBPB), welcomed Seeds of Strength representatives for a tour of the GBPB operational center.
BPB operates out of four rooms in the Old Carver Elementary School, provided by the Georgetown Independent School District (GISD). GBPB, whose mission is “to provide food insecure GISD students with weekend food packs,” uses the four rooms to organize the many boxes and cans of nonperishable foods that are sent home each week with children who may not otherwise have food over the weekend.
The organization necessary to plan for the economical purchase of food, pick up of the food that goes into the weekend packs, scheduling of volunteers to fill the packs, and then the distribution of the packs to the schools is really impressive! Here are pictures of the some of the food inventory and counter top where the volunteers fill the food packs:
Backpack Buddies does their best to secure food in the most economical fashion. They utilize a combination of bulk purchases from various sources, including HEB and the Central Texas Food Bank. The volunteers in charge of planning the menus ensure that each weekend pack contains a protein (or main), a vegetable (canned), a fruit cup, a snack, 2 cereals, and 2 milks.
The program is fully staffed by volunteers. Over 120 volunteers participate in groups, often church groups, to complete tasks such as picking up purchased food from local grocery stores, packing bags, and delivering packed bags to local schools.
Over 800 students in all 17 Georgetown ISD schools plus 2 alternative education programs participate in the Backpack program.
Backpack Buddies had to be flexible and shift their model for organization and service delivery during the pandemic shutdowns last year. When schools went to remote learning, BPB partnered with GISD to deliver the food packs to student homes utilizing the GISD bus fleet.
When schools began reopening, the flexible volunteers shifted once again. This time, with non-essential personnel not allowed on school campuses, where packing had normally been done, packing of the weekend food bags moved to the BPB operational center. The numbers of children served went down for the 2021-22 school year due to pandemic related problems, while the cost of food continues to increase.
The organized and dedicated volunteers at BPB, however, continue to adapt their operations to meet the needs of the food insecure children of Georgetown, ensuring that they do not go hungry over the weekends!