For children, weekends should be an exciting time of possibility — two full days of play, exploration, and relaxation. But too often, that potential for fun is overshadowed by a lingering question: will I have enough to eat this weekend?
One in six children living in the United States are currently at risk of going hungry on the weekends. All told, 13 million young people may not have access to food during the 65 hours they spend off-campus. The lack can leave students hungry, tired, and struggling to concentrate when they return to school on Monday.
However, one organization is working overtime to protect America’s students from food insecurity.
Blessings in a Backpack is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that gives bags packed with food to students who may be at risk of going hungry over the weeked. The organization was launched by a Louisville community organizer named Missy Hammerstrom in 2005, after she realized that students at her local elementary school were coming into school hungry on Mondays.
Hammerstrom immediately leapt into action, assembling packages filled with food and encouraging notes for children at risk of going hungry. Three years later, she scaled the initiative into a fully-blown nonprofit and began duplicating her efforts at other schools.
Since then, Blessings in a Backpack has expanded its operations to benefit 88,900 children in 1,092 program locations across 46 states and Washington, DC. It has facilitated over 3 million hunger-free weekends with the assistance of 12,305 volunteers and 12,000 donors — and its hopes for the future are even more ambitious.
The 2021-2022 school year will be the first in the nonprofit’s three-year strategic plan to provide 4 million hunger-free weekends annually for school-aged children. Blessings’ mission is crucially important, and the value it provides isn’t limited to food. Research has demonstrated that students who experience hunger are more likely to:
- Repeat a grade in elementary school
- Develop language and/or motor skill impairments
- Experience social and behavioral challenges
Given these findings, Blessing in a Backpack’s efforts might not just alleviate childhood hunger — they could very well improve lives. Research initiatives have suggested as much; in 2019, one study found that children facing food insecurity are more likely to attend school on Fridays if they take part in a backpack-based nourishment program.
At Gerent, we recognize the incredible work that Blessings in a Backpack is doing to support children. In September, our CSR arm, Gerent Gives, invited a speaker from the organization to raise awareness about the cause and its importance. Gerent Family members had the opportunity to hear about the cause’s inception, efforts, and goals. Afterwards, Gerent Gives organizers encouraged listeners to support Blessings’ work by donating or volunteering.
Gerent’s Chief People Officer, Deb Stefanoni, our VP of Marketing, took VTO with our Marketing VP, Charlene Stefanazzi, to create vibrant cards for the cause.
“I was thrilled to participate in the Blessings in a Backpack program,” Stefanoni said. “It’s a wonderful cause that benefits our neediest children. It was great working with Charlene to personalize the bags and hopefully put a smile on a child’s face.”
At Gerent, we believe that weekends should be a time of play — not hunger. We’re proud to give our time and backing to Blessings in a Backpack’s tireless efforts to alleviate childhood food insecurity.