Sponsors needed for backpack feeding initiative in SWVA

United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Backpacks Unite seeks three more sponsoring organizations

Abingdon, VA (August 9, 2017) – Currently in its seventh year, United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Backpacks Unite initiative feeds over 900 students in 30 schools, but three more schools are in need of sponsors.

Backpacks Unite provides nutritious weekend meals during each school year to students throughout Southwest Virginia. Because of United Way of Southwest Virginia’s partnerships with Food City, sponsoring organizations, and school personnel, the initiative is one of the largest food-filled backpack distribution efforts in Southwest Virginia with a program budget of over $170,000.

Tina Camper, United Way of Southwest Virginia Director of Administration, said, “The purpose of Backpacks Unite is to ensure that students have adequate meals over the weekend, allowing them to come to school Monday ready to learn and ready to succeed.”

Camper said students who participate in backpack programs can show marked improvement in school attendance, test scores, behavior, and health.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, food insecurity impairs academic development of young school-age children. They are unable to concentrate in the classroom, missing out on valuable learning opportunities and gradually fall behind their well-fed counterparts. By third grade, children who are food insecure in kindergarten see a 13% drop in their reading & math test scores compared to food-secure peers.

A fundraising event called Packin’ Pardners was held in Abingdon, VA in 2016 to help support Backpacks Unite. The initiative is also currently supported by Speedway Children’s Charities, the UPS Foundation, and 22 organizations that sponsor schools across the region.

Backpacks Unite sponsor, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, packs bags to place in backpacks as part of United Way of Southwest Virginia’s regional weekend feeding program.

Sponsoring organizations (sponsors) like churches, civic groups, and businesses give $2,200 for a school’s weekend meals during the school year, which is matched by United Way of Southwest Virginia. Every six weeks, the sponsor picks up the food, packs the backpacks, and takes the backpacks to the school. Then, food is discretely placed in the backpacks of the 24 students identified by that school’s personnel. Those students are fed each weekend, and return to school Monday ready to succeed.

For the 2017-2018 school year, three schools in Smyth County and the City of Norton are awaiting sponsors: Marion Middle School, John I. Burton High School, and Northwood Middle School.

Companies and organizations wishing to sponsor a school, or existing backpack programs 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.

Individuals who are unable to sponsor, but wish to donate to the program are encouraged to visit UnitedWaySWVA.org/Backpacks-Unite.

ABOUT BACKPACKS UNITE
Backpacks Unite is a health initiative of United Way of Southwest Virginia that provides nutritious weekend meals to elementary and middle school aged students during the school year (including holiday breaks) throughout Southwest Virginia. The purpose of Backpacks Unite is to ensure that students have adequate meals over the weekend, allowing them to come to school Monday ready to learn and ready to succeed. Research and anecdotal evidence tells us that children who come to school hungry are unable to concentrate in the classroom, missing out on valuable learning opportunities and gradually falling behind their well-fed counterparts.  United Way’s provision of foods is aimed at reducing hunger and the risk of our most vulnerable youth falling even further behind. For more information about Backpacks Unite and how to get involved, visit UnitedWaySWVA.org/Backpacks-Unite.

ABOUT UNITED WAY OF SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers almost 15% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia serves Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit UnitedWaySWVA.org.

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