Feeding Hungry Children With Backpacks Full of Food

When Linda Fix decided to help feed chronically hungry children in Columbia County in 2010, she reached out to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York for assistance. She was told that it would cost $5,000 to supply weekly backpacks full of food to 30 students in Hudson, N.Y. Without batting an eyelash, Fix and her team took on the challenge, raised the funds and kicked off the Columbia County BackPack Program.

Seven years later, the program has expanded to serve 90 students in the Hudson City School District: 30 each at John L. Edwards Primary School, Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School and Hudson Junior/Senior High School. With the help of a $2,000 grant from the Fund for Columbia County, a group of dedicated volunteers can be found in a Hudson basement each week filling backpacks with items like cereal, oatmeal packets, bread, juice boxes, canned meat, fruit, vegetables and gift cards for a gallon of milk. Each backpack contains enough food for one child.

“We developed a coordinating committee that knows how important it is for kids to eat,” Fix said during a recent backpack-filling session. “We have awesome volunteers. It’s very rewarding. It feels really good that we are able to do this.”

School employees distribute the backpacks to participating children on Friday afternoons during the school year. This timetable allows the students to enjoy nutritious snacks and meals over the weekend when food might not be available at home. The recipients are referred by teachers and are anonymous; Fix and her volunteers do not receive their names.

The Regional Food Bank was created by a group of food pantry coordinators and anti-hunger advocates in 1982. It has grown steadily since its inception, increasing food distribution from under 400,000 pounds in 1983 to 36 million pounds in 2016. Its BackPack Program aims to feed children and help them succeed in school — participating students demonstrate improved attendance, grades and behavior.

For the third year in a row, the Fund for Columbia County invited applications for projects that involve two or more organizations working in collaboration to maximize services and increase their individual impact on Columbia County residents. Through the collaborative efforts of Fix, the Regional Food Bank, the Hudson City School District, community volunteers and funders, the BackPack Program has had a demonstrably positive effect on the lives of hungry students in Columbia County.

“A high school senior going to college thanked us for feeding him,” Fix noted as volunteers put the final backpack of the week in a bin for delivery. “That touches you.”

Linda

Linda Fix, the coordinator of the Columbia County BackPack Program, feeds hungry children in Hudson with the help of volunteers.