Celebrating 20 Years of Share’s Backpack Program!
It began with just 25 food bags distributed each week to three local elementary schools: Fruit Valley, Hough and Peter S. Ogden.
In 2003, Schuyler Hoss was the Communication and Fund Development Director at Share and a board member for Vancouver Public Schools. “I was visiting an elementary school and talking to a few teachers. I noticed next to one of the desks a box of canned items and asked “What’s that?” The teacher said she put out a box every Friday and some students selected items to take home, because they don’t have anything good to eat until Monday.”
It was an “a-ha!” moment for Schuyler, who shared the experience with Diane McWithey, Executive Director. “There was clearly a need here. We needed to find a systematic way to get food to students,” he said.
Twenty years later, Share’s Backpack program now delivers 1,000+ food bags each week during the school year to 85 local schools. And we didn’t stop with just food bags. The program expanded over the past decade to include a weekly delivery of 27 pantry food boxes, 18 Fresh Food Pantries (each open once per month) and 66 ‘hotel’ bags with food that do not require a can opener or a kitchen to prepare.
While the program operates under anonymity, we are still able to get feedback from the recipients. One way is through an annual survey, which is provided in English, Spanish and Russian. And the second is through the ‘Share a Story’ program.
“The strength of the Backpack program is built on the relationships Share has fostered with our local schools and early education centers,” said Molly Evjen, Director of Volunteers & Community Resources. “It is heart-warming to hear from parents who are willing to share about the importance of food for their families and it’s absolutely delightful to see pictures that the children draw.”
Here is one recent share:
“I’m a single foster mom to four kids, ages 20-months to four years. I substitute at early learning centers, which provides flexibility to get my kids to and from various appointments through the foster care system. But my monthly checks are often low. I am so grateful for the extra food to help feed my kids, plus the snacks that they can eat while we are running between appointments.”
The Backpack program operates almost exclusively on the generosity of our community, including a partnership with the Clark County Food Bank, financial donations from community members and local businesses and the dozens of volunteers that fill and deliver all the food bags and pantry
boxes each week.
Throughout this year, we will continue to reflect on the program’s inception, growth and community impact, as well as share notes and drawings of gratitude from parents and children. So be sure to follow us on social
media: facebook.com/sharevancouver and Instagram @sharevanwa.