Operation Backpack Volunteers

Support the Health and Education of Local Kids

By Karen Klaus, Director of Development, Operation Food Search

Summer was an incredible time at Operation Food Search! The organization sponsored breakfast and lunch meals that were distributed daily to kids, helping them have a happy, healthy break over the season!

Throughout St. Louis City and County, kids gathered at safe neighborhood locations for fun, fellowship and over 95,000 nutritious meals so they could focus on being kids — not on being hungry!

Now a new season is upon us, and with nearly 143,000 children in the St. Louis region living in food-insecure households, the majority of these kids rely on free or reduced price meals at school. While school meals are clearly an effective hunger safety net, what do kids eat when school is not in session?

Operation Food Search’s Operation Backpack program addresses immediate needs for 8,500 students during the school year. We are helping families who struggle to provide their children with the food they need to thrive. We partner with the children’s schools to provide them with a backpack to take home at the end of the school week that contains a weekend’s supply of nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods. We could not address the need without volunteer assistance.

Here we spotlight a special group of enthusiastic, steadfast Operation Backpack volunteers! They are part of a core group that comes to Operation Food Search each and every week to facilitate a nutritious mix of protein, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and healthy snacks going into each food bag, ensuring our ability to reach as many kids as we do. They create an assembly line to pack the bags, put nutrition information stickers on the food items, and on occasion, add items to the bags that encourage physical activity or promote health and hygiene, including Frisbees, jump ropes, coloring books, toothbrushes, toothpaste and more (and have a blast doing so!) They look at the task at hand as a social, fun way to give kids and families a hands up!

Volunteers are essential to the backpack program. Operation Food Search also welcomes individuals, and community and corporate groups to lend a hand and help kids receive supplemental nutrition over the weekend to start their school week refreshed and ready to learn!

While backpack volunteers fill bags with the food kids need to succeed, the Operation Backpack program can only be sustained by the donations of community members, private foundations and corporate gifts.

One of the biggest nutrition gaps that children in need face is over the weekend. A well-nourished child will have a better opportunity to be prepared for school, have fewer absences, and have the concentration to achieve academically. By providing weekend backpacks to supplement basic food needs for children and their families, we are building a more vibrant and healthy community.

Hunger hurts kids! Be part of the solution to heal the hurt of childhood hunger by making a donation to Operation Food Search today at www.OperationFoodSearch.org.

We also welcome individuals and community and corporate groups to help fill food bags for Operation Backpack.

To volunteer, contact Katie.Schneider@OperationFoodSearch.org. There are also opportunities to become part of the Backpack Brigade – on the move volunteers who deliver the backpacks to schools each week. To be part of the brigade, contact Operation Backpack Program Manager Melissa.Mobley@OperationFoodSearch.org.