It is a sobering statistic but 1 in 5 children in BC suffer from food insecurity, and with the the cost of living rising, so will that number. Thankfully there are many charities and organizations working to defeat that, and Backpack Buddies is one of them.
Backpack Buddies started back in 2012 by a mom and daughter team, Joanne and Emily-Anne, who went to Collingwood School in West Vancouver with an idea on how to fight childhood-poverty and build connection.
It began with children at the school packing 15 backpacks of food a month, to be gifted to children at another school, who receive food support during the week but would otherwise go hungry on the weekends. Since then the Backpack Buddies network has grown to 66 schools in the Greater Vancouver and Victoria area, 48 of them being recipient schools and 18 being Buddy schools that pack the backpacks, with over 5000 backpacks being prepared every month.
Backpack Buddies works at a district level, to make sure kids at all schools within the district receive the support they need. Guidance counsellors at each school determine the number of children they have in need of food, and communicate that number to the school district. The district then liaisons with Backpack Buddies. Everything is completely anonymous, so no names of the children are disclosed at any point. Even the backpacks of food, which are actually disposable bags small enough to fit inside the child's actual backpack, are delivered to the child by their guidance counsellor in a discreet manner.
Backpack Buddies sources all the food from local grocery stores and ensures they are non-perishable items that will last through the weekend. They work within any allergies or dietary restrictions and make sure the food is easy enough to prepare that a child could do it on their own if needed, as they may not always have a parent around to help them.
It is summer break but Backpack Buddies is still operating, just on a reduced scale. They deliver food to any guidance counsellors who are able to organize ways to get the food to the children. Right now the organization has three vans that they use to do their pick-ups and deliveries, but they plan on expanding by adding in a food truck. Aside from regional expansions the Backpack Buddies program will be starting up in Edmonton and Toronto soon as well.
Backpack Buddies is always looking for and accepting donations of any amount. Volunteers can help pack backpacks, and schools are encourage to fundraise money. Click here to learn how you can get involved.
We are very excited to be partnering with Backpack Buddies and have some exciting promos coming up with them in the near future. Stay tuned!