Rising to the needs of families who are part of Walworth Jt. School District #1, school counselor and director of student services Jennifer Ott-Wilson turned to a friend, school secretary Eileen Coleman, to help organize a "Backpack Buddies" program.
"The inspiration for the 'Backpack Buddies' program came from some of our own school families," said Ott-Wilson. "Within the same week of October, two separate families shared their worries and anxiety regarding food insecurity they were struggling with. It can take a lot of courage to confide in others when your family is struggling.
"I was able to share some wonderful community resources that already existed in our community, but felt strongly that we could do something right here within our school to support our students as well. I don't ever want a child to be hungry.
"I knew the best person to help me organize this project was Mrs. Coleman! Mrs. Coleman was eager to help and it took us less than one week to develop and start the 'Backpack Buddies' program."
Walworth School's Parents' Club, a local food pantry, and the Walworth Children's Foundation were key providers for getting the program up and running, added Wilson-Ott.
Families who have expressed a need for food are able to be part of the program. Each family is given a backpack. On Fridays or before holidays, the backpack is filled with food for the weekend/break and sent home with the student. Then, the student brings the backpack back to school the following week to be filled again for the weekend.
Anyone who would like to donate items can drop them off at the school office. Food donation items include cereal/granola bars, cereal, snack crackers, applesauce, pudding containers, mac and cheese, ramen noodles, complete pancake mix, popcorn, oatmeal, fruit cups, etc. People are asked to consider items that are lighter in weight so that it's easier for children to carry.
If your family would benefit from "Backpack Buddies," contact Ott-Wilson or Coleman.