Weekend Hunger Backpack Program

The mission of the Weekend Hunger Backpack Program is to expand free and healthy food options to children experiencing food insecurity in our region so that they are able to attend school prepared and ready to learn.

We will accomplish this mission by:

  • Securing cost-effective solutions to providing weekend meals to students in need.
  • Providing a safe environment for students in need of nutritional support to access meals.

This program was held at a middle school in Alexandria, Virginia in 2016 where in-school site coordinators have helped distribute backpacks to support over 50 students on an ongoing basis.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

Through case management in our Community Schools, we are learning that too many of our middle school students lack access to an adequate amount of nutritious food to enable them to sustain a healthy life. United Way NCA’s Weekend Hunger Backpacks program provides meals to help those National Capital Area students get through the weekends and come to class on Monday ready to learn. The program launched at Francis C. Hammond Middle School.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School has an enrollment of 1,400 students with about 70% of those attending class eligible for free or reduced lunches. Hungry children are often unable to fully engage in daily activities such as schoolwork and social interaction with peers. Local case studies from our area have found that too often, low-income and poor students go home over the weekend to households with little or nothing to eat, only to return back to school on Monday hungry and unable to concentrate and unable to control impulses, leading to behavioral issues.

These students are twice as likely to be placed in special education and kept back a year in school. Additionally, the stress that is put on parents who are facing food insecurity has been proven to lead to grave behavioral and emotional issues that can impair mental health and make it difficult for students to adjust to social situations. Without adequate nutrition, children are easily distracted and unable to focus on learning in school.

Initiatives like the Weekend Hunger Backpacks help students show up for school on Monday fed and ready to learn. Backpacks filled with life-saving and healthy food choices prepare students for the schoolweek just as pens and pencils do in the classroom.

We partner with ALexandrians InVolved Ecumenically (ALIVE) to collect and pack healthy food backpacks for local children experiencing food insecurity.

Volunteer to pack food backpacks – Volunteers help to prepare for food distributions. This includes setting up tables, unloading boxes of food from trucks and packing the weekend meals for students. For more information on getting involved or sponsoring the Weekend Food Back Program, please contact Gabrielle Breven.