Two and a half years ago, La Ballona Elementary school staff identified a few students who were coming to school on Monday mornings hungry. Parent and community volunteers put together a simple backpacks program to give these kids food for the weekends. The 3 backpacks turned into 19 very quickly. During the week, they knew the kids were eligible for free or reduced lunches and breakfasts, but something had to be done about weekend food uncertainty. Stalwart community members brought notice of the program to the Superintendent’s Office and in December 2013 the Backpacks for Kids Program became a district-wide effort to solve food uncertainty at every single Culver City public school campus.
Did you know that 45% of CCUSD students receive free or reduced price lunches at their schools every day during the academic year? That is almost half of the District’s 6,500 students. The Backpacks for Kids Program is designed to help CCUSD students who may not have access to healthy or even enough food during the weekend. Staff and teachers at the various school sites identify the students in need. A letter is sent home to the family to ask if they would like to participate in the program. These numbers are compiled for each of our 9 school sites from preschool through high school. Numbers are used to preserve anonymity. The numbers are given to the Backpack coordinators who, working alongside middle school student volunteers, fill backpacks with non-perishable foods chosen for their calcium, vitamin, protein, whole grain, and caloric values. The full backpacks are picked up by parent volunteers who deliver them back to their schools. The backpacks are then distributed by school staff directly to the students on Fridays. The whole process starts over again the next week.
The Backpacks program is run entirely by volunteer parents and receives no funding from either District, state, or federal sources. In December all school sites are asked to join in on a Food Drive. Twice a year, Backpacks hosts a food and donation drive at a local supermarket. In the past year and a half we have been able to keep the program going based on monetary contributions from the school PTAs and booster clubs, contributions from some businesses and social organizations, and contributions from individuals.
However, our needs are growing. What started out as 19 backpacks ballooned to 50 when it went district-wide. At the end of last year, we were averaging 75 backpacks a week. In the beginning of this year that number grew to our current average of 100 backpacks each week. Based on last year’s growth pattern, we expect even more families and that our numbers will grow to 150 by June 2016. If we do not receive enough financial help we will have to cut back on the number of items included or students served.
Unfortunately, this year donations have fallen short and we do not think we will be able to keep the program supplying as much food. We would appreciate any assistance you can give us. Following the lead of our Superintendent, Dave LaRose, we are doing what we can to help make sure no child comes to school hungry. Can you help us?
Please make checks payable to CCCPTA and mail to:
Culver City Council of PTAs
4034 Irving Place
Culver City, CA 90232
Please put: “Backpacks” in the memo line
Tax ID: 23-7014093
CCCPTA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit
For more information, please contact Jamie Wallace or Leslie Gardner at [email protected]. Or contact Jamie Wallace at (310) 559-5018.