Abingdon, VA (August 29, 2016) – Backpacks Unite, a partnership between Food City and United Way of Southwest Virginia, has become one of the largest food-filled backpack distribution efforts in the region. Now in its 6thyear with a program budget of over $150,000 feeding over 800 students, the program is ready to expand again.

“Since the program’s inception in 2009, the number of schools served has almost doubled,” said Travis Staton, CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia. “That means there are schools counting on the contents of those backpacks to feed many of their students each weekend and over the holidays”.

Out of the 18 regional organizations and businesses that currently sponsor schools, one of the largest groups is UPS Richlands. Mike Sharpe, On-Call Supervisor at UPS Richlands said, “This year we are sponsoring 9 schools providing over 200 children with food throughout the school year.  We are very excited to be participating again.”

Steve Smith, CEO of Food City, said, “Backpacks Unite has great community partners like UPS Richlands that take pride in knowing they’re making a huge difference in our region’s children. Now that United Way has the means to expand into more schools, they will need more organizations like UPS to assist with the program by adopting a school.”

Currently, United Way of Southwest Virginia is seeking sponsor organizations willing to adopt additional schools in Southwest Virginia – specifically in the counties of Lee, Scott, Smyth, and Giles for the 2016-2017 school year.

Adopting a school for the year first involves contributing a match of $2400 for weekend meals during the school year (feeding around 24 children per school). Then, every six weeks, the adopting organizations will pick up the food, pack the backpacks, and take the backpacks to the school. Foods are rotated with each distribution so students are introduced to a variety of healthy foods over the course of the school year, including options like oatmeal, cereal bars, wheat crackers, peanut butter, mandarin oranges, soup, and raisins.

Companies and organizations wishing to adopt a school, or those that would like to learn more about Backpacks Unite, are encouraged to contact United Way of Southwest Virginia at 276.628.2160 or info@unitedwayswva.org.



United Way of Southwest Virginia partners with organizations who adopt schools in the area. School personnel identify children and obtain parental permission to enroll them in the Backpacks Unite Program, and then, United Way works with Food City on logistical matters and securing healthy foods.  Organizations adopting a school pick up the food, pack the backpacks, and distribute groups of backpacks to the schools so students can discreetly receive food before school dismisses for the weekend. United Way is committed to being there for hungry kids so they can learn, live, and grow. For more information about Backpacks Unite and how to get involved, visit netnswvarelief.wpengine.com/backpacks-unite.



United Way of Southwest Virginia is a volunteer organization providing support and visibility through tools, partners, advocacy, and other resources to advance the common good.  United Way mobilizes thousands of people to give, advocate and volunteer to improve education, help people achieve financial stability and promote healthy lives across Southwest Virginia.  United Way of Southwest Virginia covers over 5,860 square miles, approximately 15% of the state of Virginia, and more than 350,000 residents in the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information on United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit netnswvarelief.wpengine.com.




[Accompanying photo available here.]

Caption: Steve Smith speaks with UPS Richlands team members at a celebration for the 2015-2016 Backpacks Unite program.