Abingdon, VA (Tuesday, July 14, 2015) – More than 700 children in elementary schools across Southwest Virginia will benefit from changes to a program that distributes backpacks filled with food to hungry students during the school year. United Way and Food City announced today that the two organizations are partnering to expand United Way’s Backpacks Unite Program. The program is geared towards meeting the needs of hungry children throughout the upcoming school year.

Historically four school systems in Southwest Virginia, Washington County, Russell County, Smyth County and Dickenson County have participated. With a goal to expand throughout the entire Southwest Virginia Region, United Way approached Food City seeking their support. The new partnership will allow United Way to expand the program from the 16 schools they currently serve to a total of 30 participating schools.

“We’re extremely excited to have this opportunity to partner with United Way of Southwest Virginia to help expand this critical needs program,” said Steven C. Smith, president and chief executive officer for Food City. “Through this collaborative effort, we will now be able to offer the Backpacks Unite Program to communities and school systems across the entire Southwest Virginia region.”

United Way has committed to a dollar for dollar match towards food costs for schools joining the program. In addition to matching funds, United Way will provide purchasing and logistical assistance, with the aid of Food City. Coordinating groups will work with school personnel and provide volunteers to fill the backpacks every six weeks throughout the school year.

“In order to bring this program to scale, we realize that no one organization can do this alone,” said Travis Staton, chief executive officer for the United Way of Southwest Virginia. “Which is why today, we are calling on community organizations such as civic group, churches, PTAs and area businesses to get involved by adopting a school.”

Groups interested is adopting a school are encouraged to visit the Backpacks Unite page.