Backpack Buddies announces summer program

Backpack Buddies announces summer program
Posted on 05/22/2019
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley will expand to serve students with a new summer program, the nonprofit recently announced. The summer service will be available on an opt-in basis for families in need.

“We’ve known that not having the program over the summer was leaving a gap,” said Mindy Gamble, president of Backpack Buddies. “It was good timing for us to take this next step.”

The nonprofit program is funded solely through donations, and organized and operated by volunteers. Each week, bags are packed with primarily shelf-stable and easy-to-prepare food such as macaroni and cheese, instant oatmeal, granola bars, juice, soup, milk; as well as two pieces of fresh fruit. The bags are delivered to each school in the district, then distributed to students whose parents have signed up for the program. During the school year, students bring the bags home on Friday each week so that they will have food to eat over the weekend.

The new summer program calls for families who opt in to travel to the Maple Valley Church to pick up their bags. The church has given Backpack Buddies a space for packing food.

Backpack Buddies provides bags to students who are food insecure, such as families who qualify for free and reduced price meals.

“Time after time, when kids who volunteer ask me ‘What do you do for the kids over the summer?’ it breaks my heart to say: ‘Nothing.’ I’m very proud to say that we’ve bridged that gap for these kids in need during the summer. It warms my heart to know that we’re able to,” Gamble said. “It makes me proud of how far the program has come.”

The summer program will increase costs for Backpack Buddies. To cover the cost of an estimated 50 bags per week at about $5 per bag, Backpack Buddies will need approximately $2,750. By comparison, during school this year, the program has packed an average of 150 bags each week and a total of 4,615 bags so far this year.

Bags in the summer will include similar food items to the school year, with the exception of the fresh fruit. Gamble said they are working with Foley’s Produce to arrange a coupon for fresh fruit so that it won’t be sitting in the bags in the heat of summer.

For families who are interested in participating, click here for the form in English or, click here for the form in Spanish. The forms also were sent home via district email to parents and guardians.

To learn more about the program or to sign up to volunteer, click here to check out the organization’s Facebook page.

Those who are interested in donating to the program may make a direct donation through the Venmo App on mobile devices by searching “Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley.”
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