An Early Inspiration: The Portland Backpack Program
In addition to sharing my Mom Congress experience in this blog, I’ll be highlighting some easy ways that local families can support Oregon’s students through various school and community programs. For starters, I’ll begin with a grassroots nonprofit I discovered shortly after moving to Portland in 2009, which began opening my eyes to some very basic, and critical, community needs: The Portland Backpack Program. (NOTE: If you are pressed for time and skim this, skip to the end for “TAKE ACTION TODAY: SOME EASY WAYS list!)
Have you ever found that when you try to avoid reality, a much harder version of it usually ends up hitting you smack in the face? That was me, a year and a half ago. I was feeling overwhelmed from our recent move, and the stress of unpacking and settling into our new city got the better of me one afternoon. So, I headed down to a local neighborhood coffee shop for a quick break from reality. While standing in line, I picked up a neighborhood newsletter and started reading an article asking for food donations to support a program that provided weekend lunch sacks for local elementary students. I was curious to learn more, and reached out to them. I spoke to Marilyn Mauch, an incredible woman who is the heart and soul of this program. She shared with me that, for many students, federally-sponsored school lunch is their main – and often only – source of nutrition; many children go hungry on weekends when school lunches aren’t available. This program is 100% volunteer run, a collaboration of 4 neighborhood churches, and began in 2008 helping 10 students, and currently serves over 160 in two elementary schools through the help of local families and neighborhood groups who come together to gather food items to send home with students every Friday. Since that first conversation, I have become a volunteer and supporter of this program, and have also learned a lot more about the connections between food insecurity and academic success, behavioral issues, and depression among children.
Children represent more than 17 million of the 51 million Americans who lack the means to get nutritious food on a regular basis. If kids aren’t eating enough to get their bodies and minds moving, how can we possibly expect them to achieve academic success?
TAKE ACTION TODAY: SOME EASY WAYS
Support the Portland Backpack Program:
- Spring clean your cupboards, pickup a handful of extra items next time you’re at Fred Meyer, put a collection box at your school, or “charge admission” of a few canned food items at your next social gathering, kids birthday party, or girl’s night out. What’s Needed: chili, soup, ravioli w/meat sauce, mac & cheese, 100% juice boxes, cheese and crackers, individual fruit snacks.
- Follow the Portland Backpack Programon Facebook for updates on volunteer opportunities, or contact email@example.com for more information.
- Donate to help fund local student meals. $100 sponsors a child for an entire year of weekend lunches, and any amount helps. Checks can be made payable to Fremont United Methodist Church, with ”Backpack Donation” in memo field. Mail to Fremont UMC, 2620 NE Fremont St., Portland, OR 97212 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Not from Oregon? Check out the Feeding America site for information on similar Backpack programs across the country here.
- Read Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon’s “Ending Hunger Before it Begins: Oregon’s Call to Action 2010-2015″ and “Child Nutrition Outreach“
- Read Oregon’s Childhood Hunger Coalition’s Childhood Hunger: A Public Health Concern
- Read Oregon State’s Understanding Food Insecurity and “Hunger” in Oregon
- Read The Partnership for America’s Economic Success’ Reading, Writing, and Hungry: The consequences of food insecurity on children, and on our nation’s economic success
- Read Share Our Strength’s “Understanding Childhood Hunger”
Take Action: Do Even More:
- See “Advocacy and Outreach Tools” section here to learn about new legislative priorities, pressing local programs needing support, and more.
- Take action to support hunger-related issues across Oregon by contacting local officials, becoming an online advocate, or sharing your personal story through the Oregon Food Bank’s Advocacy here.
- Learn more about national hunger issues from Hunger America (formerly America’s Second Harvest) and their national Hunger Action Center
Did you learn something by reading this? If so, pass it on! What else do you know that you can share???