Nourishing Underserved Children in our Community
By Carrie Hirsch
The best ideas are born out of need. This is how Janet Weingarten launched and became the first Chair of Backpack Buddies of Hilton Head, which has changed thousands of young lives. “Ten years ago I attended a community forum sponsored by the Social Action Committee on “Hidden Hunger In the Lowcountry.” As a new resident of Hilton Head, I was shocked to learn that at that time 49 percent of children attending the Hilton Head elementary schools participated in the federal free breakfast and lunch program. I decided I wanted to help alleviate childhood hunger where I lived,” says Weingarten. The Hunger Coalition of the Lowcountry was born, an interfaith effort with support from First Presbyterian Church, Congregation Beth Yam, St. Andrew By the Sea United Methodist and St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church congregants. Since then, Christ Lutheran and Hilton Head Island Community Church members have joined the effort. Janet is now past Chair, executive board member and grant director. Joe Kerr is the present Chairman of the Board, and Debi Dunlap and Jeannette Davis serve as the co-chairs of this non-profit organization.
Today about 62 percent of the elementary students receive federal meals in Hilton Head elementary schools. Studies show children who have sufficient food over the weekend are more alert, have a better attention span and better attendance than hungry children. In contrast, according to Feeding America, when a child goes hungry over the weekend it will take that child 2.5 days of regular meals for them to retain what they are learning. That means if a child comes to school hungry on Monday, they are not ready to learn until Wednesday afternoon.
“By providing weekend meals when they don’t get school breakfasts and lunches to needy children, we help these children get the nutrition they need to start the school week ready to learn. We now also provide fresh produce for the Neighborhood Outreach Connection’s (NOC) after school, weekend and summer programs. In addition, we provide a healthy snack closet for elementary schools and protein snacks for hungry middle and high school students.”
Now celebrating 10 years, there are many volunteers, logistics and pure elbow grease that make this organization the model program it has become. Volunteers are always needed for packing food and transporting it to the schools. Grants from local charitable organizations are a key source of funding. “All of the funding for the purchase of food comes from congregants at the participating synagogue and churches, as well as grants from community organizations such as All Saints Garden Tour, Bargain Box, Church Mouse Thrift, Caring Coins, Long Cove Endowment, Moss Creek, St. Francis Thrift, Realtors Association, Wexford Foundation and others. We are lucky to be supported by family charitable foundations and individuals, too,” Janet said.
During the school year Backpack Buddies Hilton Head will provide over 10,000 packs of food serving more than 300 students each week.
A gift of $120 provides a weekly bag of fresh vegetables and fruit for after school tutoring programs.
A gift of $200 will provide an elementary school student with 4 nutritious meals every weekend throughout the school year.
A gift of $550 will provide 2 weeks of fresh fruit to each weekend food bag.
A gift of $600 will provide a month of nutritious snacks for at-risk middle and high school students.
Join in Celebrating Backpack Buddies of Hilton Head's
10th Anniversary With A New Orleans Style Jazz Brunch
Hosted by The Jazz Corner on Sunday, January 12, 2020 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Brunch includes sticky buns, choice of quiche, bottomless mimosas and live jazz with Dave Masteller & The Jazz Corner Ensemble! $60 per person includes all taxes and gratuities, and all proceeds go directly to feeding local hungry children. Seating is limited so make your reservations now: www.backpackbuddieshh.org/jazz-brunch
To learn more, support or volunteer with Backpack Buddies, log on to www.backpackbuddieshh.org.