by Martha Lawlor –
It’s hard to believe that nearly half of the children in the Georgetown Independent School District (GISD) system are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program established by the federal government many years ago. While this ensures a nutritious breakfast and lunch on school days, what will these students eat on the weekends?
That’s where the Georgetown Back Pack Buddies (GBPB) steps in. Founded in 2009 by John Carnes and members of the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance, the mission of the program is to help eliminate childhood hunger by providing food to children in GISD grades K through 8 with weekend food packages.
More than 120 volunteers are involved in ordering the food, warehousing it, and packing more than 800 plastic bags (not actually a back pack!) with five food items every week:
- Shelf-stable milk or juice
- Cereal or pasta or rice
- Protein (canned tuna or chicken, peanut butter)
- Canned veggie (beans, corn, etc.) or canned fruit
- A snack
The GBPB buys the food from three sources: The Austin Food Bank, HEB, and Labatt Food Services. The bags of food are distributed to the students on Fridays, before they go home for the weekend. Most likely they carry the bags home in their back pack!
This school year GISD has provided two rooms in the old Carver Elementary School to use for warehousing and for assembling the food items for each school; the food items are then delivered to the nine elementary and four middle schools for packing by volunteers.
Families apply at the beginning of the school year for inclusion in the GBPB program. Information about the program is provided to them by GISD in the school registration package, and counselors and teachers also may recommend that a family apply. Eligibility is based upon family income. If a family has more than one student in the program, each one will receive a food package. It’s easy to understand that the entire family often shares the food.
It’s amazing that the folks at GBPB will pack over 32,000 food bags this school year (more than 75,000 pounds of food), with a budget of only $72,000. GBPB is supported financially by donations and grants from individuals, local churches, foundations and corporations. In April 2017 Seeds of Strength awarded GBPB a grant of $20,000.
The program goal is to make sure that these children will come to school on Monday nourished and ready to learn and participate in class. SoS is proud to be a sponsor of this excellent program.