Mission & History
The Brookings BackPack Project assists children and youth in Brookings, SD, who may not have enough food to eat at home by providing them with easy-to-prepare weekend meals and snacks throughout the year.
By helping to sustain these children, BBP seeks not only to help meet their nutritional needs but also to promote their physical, cognitive and social development, and to enhance their overall sense of well-being.
We can trace our history back to 1995, when the very first backpack food program in the nation was established in Arkansas. A school nurse in Little Rock contacted the Arkansas Rice Depot (the local food bank), seeking help for children in her school who were suffering from hunger. She had seen for herself how food scarcity apart from cafeteria lunches was affecting their physical health, classroom behavior and ability to learn. In response to her concerns, the Depot started the Food for Kids program, providing hungry students in that school with groceries in non-descript backpacks.
All it took was one person who cared enough to make a phone call.
Since 1995, thousands of such backpack food programs have been launched in the United States, primarily through Feeding America (once known as America's Second Harvest), the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding South Dakota, an affiliate of Feeding America, founded its own backpack program in 2006 to serve schoolchildren in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
The Sioux Falls program directly inspired the creation of the Brookings Backpack Project. Having learned about it in early 2009, a small group of Brookings residents, most of whom were members of the Brookings United Church of Christ, started to explore the feasibility of a local program. As the vision moved toward reality, the group met with officials from both the Brookings Public Schools and Brookings Head Start, who enthusiastically agreed to be partners in the project. These administrators were only the first in an ever-growing line of kind-hearted individuals and committed organizations throughout the city who, since its inception in June, 2009, have given life to the Brookings Backpack Project.
In 2009-2010 BBP served Head Start and school-age children throughout the academic year. The number of children served grew from 80 at the start of the year to a high of 253.
In 2013-2014, BBP has served well over 300 children, topping out at 379 for the school year. Given the deep need in the community as well as the generous support shown by local donors and volunteers, the BBP Advisory Board is a year-round mission. Summer program numbers were at 110 for the 2013 summer, and we are expecting similar numbers or greater for the enrollment in this summer program.
It is now 2016 and we pack approximately 420 bags each week for students in the Brookings School District and Head Start. Our summer program remains constant at approximately 100.
Our efforts at BBP are joined to the compassionate work of the Brookings Food Pantry, the Harvest Table, Feeding Brookings, the Family Back 2 School Project, and other community-wide ventures as together we seek to respond to individuals and families who are struggling financially. Each project, in its own unique way, is feeding hope.
All it takes is somebody who cares....
"At least 13 million poor kids
face much longer odds than the rest of us,
simply because they’re born poor.
As families, we love our children;
but as a nation, all too often,
we neglect them.
We can no longer afford it."
President and CEO
Northwest Area Foundation