Forsyth Backpack Program is a local, volunteer-led 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to provide nutritious food in backpacks on weekends and holidays to local school children who have been identified by school personnel as being in need of food.
Without the backpack food, these children may have little to no access to food (healthy or otherwise) over the weekend or long holidays. With the food, the children are able to return to school after the weekend or holiday break better ready to pay attention, learn and play.
What We Do . . .
To achieve our mission and fulfill our vision, we:
- Serve as a Partner Agency to establish and operate Backpack programs and weekend feeding programs throughout the year
- Serve as a Partner Agency to provide meals and fresh produce to families with children
- Work with other Backpack Partner Agencies to provide meals for long holidays
- Work with a network of community partners
- Raise Awareness of Childhood Hunger in our community
- Share Best Practices and serve as a forum for communication among the established and new individual Backpack and weekend feeding programs
- Recruit and Place Volunteers for existing and new programs
- Locate Storage Space for food products
- Seek Grants for the benefit of multiple Backpack Programs
Our vision is (1) to serve as an umbrella organization to help Backpack and weekend feeding programs in Forsyth County better meet the challenges before them and (2) to act as a Partner Agency with Second Harvest to establish new programs and to provide supplemental food for weekends and long school breaks.
. . . and Why We Do It.
Teachers see the effects of hunger up close, and the impact that weekend and supplemental food makes. One local teacher said she couldn’t introduce new concepts to kids until Wednesday, after they had been at school to receive the free and reduced breakfast and lunch. After the Backpack Program started, she was able to introduce new concepts on Monday!
Talking about the Backpack Program, another local teacher said, “These students have been so beaten down by life that by the time they are 8 and 9 years old, they have given up. The food has helped reverse that. The food nourishes not just their bodies. It nourishes their minds. It nourishes their emotions. It nourishes them psychologically.”
According to Feeding America, persistent hunger can have devastating effects on children. Hunger affects mental health and can cause problems such as depression, anxiety and even post traumatic stress disorder; hunger effects children's performance in schools - it's hard to concentrate and learn; and there is a strong connection between hunger and chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
What We’ve Accomplished
- As of the 2021-2022 school year, FBP operates seven programs: School Programs, High School Food Closets, Holiday Supplemental Program, Summer Program, Fruit Program, Pantry Box Program, and Produce Program.
- School Programs — FBP provides weekend meals to approximately 470 students each school year weekend. Current programs include: Cook, Forest Park, Gibson, Kimberley Park, Konnoak, Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork, Ashley, Jefferson and Union Cross for Elementary schools and both Hanes Middle School and Southeast Middle. FBP also works with but does not run the programs at Sherwood Forest and Whitaker elementary schools.
- Fruit Program — FBP provides fresh fruit (apples and oranges) to children participating in select backpack programs.
- High School Food Closets — FBP provides full sized canned and packaged goods for students to choose at Parkland High School and Middle College at Forsyth Technical Institute.
- Holiday Supplemental Program — FBP provides free meals for the entire length of the long holidays (Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring and Memorial Day breaks) to students participating in Backpack Programs operated by other partner agencies as well as those students attending FBP partner schools. The number of children served for the long holidays ranges from 1100-1500.
- Summer Program — FBP provides weekend meals to children attending summer camps at recreation centers throughout the county, at Winston-Salem State University, and at select schools.
Other Notable Achievements
- Raised awareness of childhood hunger issues by working with students at Wake Forest University and through speaking engagements at civic and church groups
- Involved hundreds of employees from major area businesses such as Wake Forest Baptist Health, Wells Fargo, Novant Health, Syngenta and Truist (formerly BB&T) in packing events
- Hosted community packing events with volunteers from community groups such as the Young Lawyers and Girl Scouts
- Been held up as an example of initiative mentioned by Mayor Joines in a speech to Winston-Salem Leadership
- Participated in the PGA Wyndham Championship charitable initiative Birdies Fore Backpacks since 2014
- Raised more than $417,000 from various community sources taking action to fight hunger since 2013
- Recipient of the 2015 Junior League of Winston-Salem Community Partner Award