When did Blessings in a Backpack begin?
Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick MD is the local chapter of the National Blessings in a Backpack registered non-profit. The National organization began in 2008. Under that umbrella, approximately 87,000 children in over 1,000 schools are fed each weekend. The local Frederick chapter began distributing 210 backpacks at one school in January 2014. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers and generous community support, we currently feed 3,200 low-income children in 27 local schools.
How many employees work for Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick?
Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick MD currently has one employee as of 2020, our Program Director. Our local program is also led by a Steering Committee and Volunteer School Coordinators. Approximately 100 volunteers pick-up, pack, and distribute food each week of the school year.
How does Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick acquire its funding?
Funds are raised in a variety of ways. Individual donations are the foundation of our fund-raising efforts. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 3508, Frederick, MD 21701-3508 or made through our secure website, www.biabfrederickmd.org/donate BIAB also establishes funding partnerships with local businesses and corporations. In addition, we receive grants from various foundations and organizations, as well as Frederick City and Frederick County. We receive no Federal or State funding at this time.
Does all the money donated stay in Frederick?
Yes. All money raised by Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick MD is used to feed and benefit our local children.
How much does it cost to feed an individual child?
It costs $110 to feed an individual child for an entire 38-week school year. That equals about $2.65 for a regular 2-day weekend. Thanks to a very robust food donation program and corporate partnerships, we are able to distribute approximately $3.00 worth of food each week. Please see information below about how to donate.
How are students selected for the program?
The School Counselor, Community Liaison, or administration identifies children at risk of going hungry when school meals are unavailable. We generally serve students experiencing 4 areas of need: homeless or living in transitional housing, students who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, students from families with limited assets (ALICE…working poor), or whose family may be dealing with an unplanned emergency (job loss, medical, etc). The program is open to students in K-8th grade.
How is confidentiality protected?
The identities of students we serve are strictly confidential. The School Counselor, Community Liaison, or administration identifies children at risk of going hungry when school meals are unavailable. The school provides the number of students and we pack accordingly. Distribution to individual students is handled by school staff in a confidential and caring manner.
Is there a permission slip to participate?
There is no permission slip for participation. Students receive an “opt-out letter” with their first annual bag. Copies are provided in English and Spanish. If the student’s parent or guardian decides that the program does not meet their needs, they sign the letter and return it to a designated member of the school staff. The letter also includes a notice regarding food sensitivities or allergies.
Why might a family “opt-out”?
Families “opt-out” of the program for a variety of reasons: the child might have food sensitivities or allergies that we are unable to accommodate; the family may have other resources, or they may be concerned about confidentiality. If the designated school staff feels that further assurance or clarification is necessary, they contact the family.
How do you decide which schools will be in the program?
School Counselors or a member of the community usually reach out to us. If funding is available, we willingly add that school to our program. Generally, schools with a high percentage of need reach-out to us. Sometimes an organization or business decides to “adopt” a school. Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick MD currently serves 27 local schools…a comprehensive list is available on our website.
How does the food get to the school? Is it delivered?
Currently, food is purchased from a national distributor, Sysco, in a pre-packed bag and delivered to our office. This is then picked-up by school or community volunteers and brought to the respective schools to be distributed. Our partners from Darcars Toyota pick up supplemental items from SAMs and deliver to our larger schools.
What is included in a weekend bag?
We have a series of rotating menus. Each child enrolled in our program receives the same items in any given week of the rotation. Over regular 2-day weekends, Blessings provides breakfast, a lunch entree, dessert, and a snack for each day. Longer weekends and school breaks mean more food is required. We provide non-perishable, kid-friendly food like oatmeal, cold cereal, pasta (spaghetti, Mac & cheese, ravioli, spaghettios), rice options, soup, tuna, pudding, fruit cups, applesauce, snack bars, and snacks like Chex mix, pretzels, Goldfish, Cheez-its, cheese & crackers, as well as shelf stable cheese and turkey sticks.
Who distributes the bags and when?
Packed bags are placed confidentially in student backpacks on the last day of school before the weekend/school break by specially designated school staff/volunteers. If there’s no school on Friday, students receive their food the last school day before the break. Students receive food for regular weekends, long weekends, school breaks, Emergency Snack Packs for snow days, Blizzard Bags for major weather events. Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick MD also provides food over holidays or teacher work days that coincide with weekends.
Does Blessings accomodate for food allergies?
Unfortunately, due to the number of children served each week, we are unable to accommodate most food sensitivities or allergies. However, we do provide substitutes for peanut products.
Where does the “backpack” part come in? Does every child receive a new backpack?
In order to maintain confidentiality, children do not receive special Blessings-marked backpacks. We pack food items in grocery bags, which are then put into the child’s personal backpack before the weekend or breaks. However, if a child does need a backpack, we can provide one.
What happens over the summer?
BIAB does not currently provide food over the summer. Our only access to the children we serve is through the schools during the 38-week school year. Thankfully, there are a number of other community programs available during the summer, including one through Frederick County Public Schools.
Is the food donated or purchased?
We purchase approximately 90% of the food we distribute. The remainder of the food is donated through local clubs, businesses, organizations, individuals, and the faith community. We have a specific list of acceptable food. See below for details about food donations.
How can I donate food?
We are very grateful for food donations from individuals, groups, clubs, organizations and businesses. Please note that we have a very specific food donation list that aligns with our menus. We only accept non-perishable food in perfect condition (no dents, dings, torn or opened packaging). We greatly appreciate newly-purchased food, so as to avoid items that are expired or soon-to-be expired. You can donate food directly though Amazon or view our food list. Please contact us for additional information.
What is the best way to make a monetary donation?
We are very grateful for any and all donations. Checks payable to Blessings in a Backpack may be sent to P.O. Box 3508, Frederick, MD 21705-3508 or submitted online through our secure portal.
How can my company or organization get involved?
We welcome corporate, business, and organizational partnerships. There are many ways to help BIAB serve local children…sign-up to volunteer at one of our schools, run an in-house “food & funds” drive, sponsor a school or group of children. It costs $110 to feed an individual child for an entire school year, $550 to feed 5, $1,100 to feed 10, $5,500 to feed 50, and so on. We would be very grateful for your support. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
How else can I get involved?
There are many ways to get involved. Help us pack backpacks, donate food, or donate funds. Please “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BlessingsinaBackpackFrederick. We often post opportunities to help at our schools or special events. It’s also a great way to learn about local businesses that sponsor events to benefit our program.