Backpack Program Continues Mission

Local Backpack Program Continues to Help Feed Children - Here's How to Get Involved
Posted on 08/30/2023
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Twelve years later, the Weakley County Backpack Program is still feeding hundreds of hungry students in Weakley County over the weekend, and you are invited to join the cause.

During the 2022-23 school year, the Backpack Program served approximately 350 children each week, a total of about 13,500 meals/bags of food to those enrolled in the program.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years since we started. Unfortunately, we understand that the need for this food for students just continues to grow,” said Backpack Program Coordinator Colin Johnson.

During its first year in operation, the program fed 17 children at one school. This year, the program will serve 10 schools and HeadStart Program and an estimated 350+ children.

The program is made possible by food grants from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and in partnership with the school district. Faculty and staff work together at the beginning of each school year to identify and enroll students who experience food insecurity. Those enrolled receive a bag of kid-friendly and nonperishable food items on Fridays to eat on weekends and school holidays. Pre-assembled food sacks are delivered to participating schools at no cost to the school or the child. The food assembly process takes place monthly during the school year in the Family Life Center at the First Baptist Church in Dresden.

The process of obtaining, organizing, assembling, and delivering the food sacks is a substantial undertaking, according to Johnson. Mitchell Transport and Trucking Company generously provides a tractor trailer and driver each month to transport the program’s large quantities food.

“A lot goes into the behind the scenes work of the Backpack Program,” continued Johnson. “From the writing of the grant and the maintenance of that paperwork, organizing the logistics with Second Harvest for food drop off, getting the word out to volunteers to help pack the bags, driving the bags to the schools for delivery, and there are many other moving pieces. If it weren’t for our donors and volunteers, the program couldn’t work,” he said.

backpack program volunteers packing

backpack volunteers packing Mitchell Transport truck

Bethany Allen is the Director of the Weakley County Schools Coordinated School Heath Program. She said that hunger remains a real issue.

“Food insecurity continues to be a serious concern in our community. Weakley County Schools is incredibly thankful for the generous support from the Backpack Program Board and caring members of our community who work tirelessly to feed these students every weekend. Their mission is to alleviate child hunger in Weakley County, and they are doing just that. We are grateful to Mitchell Transport for delivering the food to our schools and the Backpack Program Coordinators in each school who make sure the food is given out every weekend,” said Allen.

Johnson says that there’s a big way that the community can help support hungry students.

“If you want to help feed hungry students in our schools, volunteer. Help us pack food each month. All you have to do is show up. Someone will show you what to do to help pack. It’s easy and quick when several people show up. Help by distributing the food to the schools. Help by sharing dates and times that we pack. The more people who help, the greater impact we’ll make on the lives of hungry kids in our community,” Johnson stated.

According to Children’s HealthWatch and the hunger relief organization Feeding America, hungry children incur developmental, cognitive, emotional, and growth impairments. They are more likely to have lower academic achievement due to cognitive concentration issues and experience more social and behavioral problems. Hungry children are also more likely to be sick and hospitalized.

Packing takes place on the first Tuesday of each month at 12:00 noon in the Family Life Center at the First Baptist Church in Dresden. Packing dates for the 2023-24 school year are September 5th, October 3rd, November 7th, December 5th, January 3rd, February 6th, March 5th, and April 2nd.

Director of Schools Jeff Cupples said that the numbers of students served tells an important story.

“If the number of students served tells us anything, it’s that food insecurity is an ongoing problem happening right here at home. The good news is that our community is full of caring, generous people. The Backpack Program is a volunteer group that has gone above the call of duty for 12 years to feed students. That kind of support does not go unnoticed. We have heartfelt gratitude for Director Colin Johnson, his team, Mitchell Transport, program donors, and every volunteer who has worked with this group to help feed kids,” Cupples acknowledged.

Weakley County Backpack Program volunteers and donors are greatly appreciated.

To find out how you can get involved, visit, and follow the Weakley County Backpack Program page on Facebook.

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