Happy Birthday, Backpack Buddies

January 10, 2019

Backpack Buddies is eight years old.

Galilee created our award-winning Backpack Buddies program in 2011, when we heard from teachers that students came to school on Mondays complaining of hunger. These wonderful teachers were buying food with their own money to have it available in their classrooms.

So eight years ago, Backpack Buddies swung into action with just thirty weekend meal packs delivered to one school, Meadowland Elementary. The program now serves over 400 children at four elementary schools, a middle school, and Dominion High.

That’s something to celebrate!

Backpack Buddies volunteers supplemented their own diet with a birthday cake on Monday night.

Galilee’s program is unique because we serve students of all ages. Many similar programs focus on the elementary level, because students in middle and high school can have lower participation rates. We work with our school partners to know what these older students need. For example, Dominion High School asks for food that is microwavable because many of their students in the program are homeless or living in situations without reliable access to a kitchen.

That’s a blessing we get with Backpack Buddies: an awareness of what is going on in the community and the opportunity to build relationships with school faculties to address it. These relationships mean we can expand to programs beyond food, which we have done with our Rolling Ridge Elementary Mentors program to encourage reading. 

Backpack Buddies frequently welcomes outside groups and businesses to donate food and/or pack meals.

We’re pleased to say that in its eighth year, Backpack Buddies remains fresh in its commitment to these kids. Our thanks go out to over twenty volunteers who track inventory and make purchasing decisions, or load their cars with meals to deliver to schools, or oversee packing events and coordinate restaurant fundraisers. We have leaders who liaison with the schools to make sure any changes in needs are communicated to the team, and communication volunteers who publish a quarterly newsletter for yearly sponsors.

But we’re most pleased to have you on board! We pack meals every Sunday and very often you join us. You can pack with us at 10am on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month in the Multipurpose Room, while on the 2nd and 4th Sunday we pack at 5pm in the Pantry. No experience is necessary and we welcome volunteers from 4 years old (with a parent) to 104 years old (no parent required).

New  this year: Youth Group is helping on the 2nd Sunday of the month at 5pm, while Sunday School children and families are helping on the 5th Sunday of the month at 10:15am—they have been great! 

Galilee is projected to distribute 86,000 meals by the end of this, our eighth year as a Backpack Buddies congregation. We couldn’t do it without your generous donations of time, food, and money. 

So let’s ramp it up! Next Thursday, January 17, there will be a Chick-Fil-A fundraiser from 3pm-8pm at the Dulles 28 location (near Wegmans). It’s a great way to support the program. Pick up a flyer this Sunday in the lobby or show the image above on your phone—and we’ll see you there!

God bless you, Galilee, for helping put Christ’s love—and nutritious meals—into the backpacks of hungry kids.