Insights: Chicago | Community | Spring 2018

Blessings in a Backpack & Huntington: A socially conscious partnership

Blessings in a Backpack helps feed hungry children in Chicago

Blessings in a backpack

Free school breakfast and lunch programs feed children across America during the week. But what happens over the weekend, when many have limited access to food?

Blessings in a Backpack aims to solve that problem by providing children with food on weekends.

The program was founded nine years ago in Louisville, Kentucky, and has grown to serve nearly 90,000 children in 950 schools across 46 states and Washington, D.C.

“It started as a grassroots, very local movement, and it continues in that vein today,” says Brooke Wiseman, the Chicago-based CEO of the Louisville-headquartered organization. She says the mission is spreading rapidly, and as the number of volunteers grows, so do the number of neighborhoods and people it serves.

What Blessings in a Backpack does

At participating schools, volunteers team up each week to fill backpacks with nonperishable food items. Meals and snacks are child friendly, with food they can prepare themselves.

Wiseman says the program’s success goes well beyond full bellies and good nutrition; it also spreads a message of caring. “The kids who get the backpacks say it’s not the food that is their favorite thing, it’s knowing there are people right here in the neighborhood that care about them,” she says. That makes the program attractive to volunteers, as well. “People like being able to make a difference on a local scale,” says Wiseman. “They love the hands-on and immediate aspect of packing backpacks to go home to kids right in their communities that very weekend. It’s simply very satisfying.”

How it helps

In addition to volunteers, Blessings in a Backpack benefits from corporate involvement. Huntington Bank recently began supporting the program at Beaupre Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois, which feeds 300 children.

“We are looking forward to working with Huntington as one of our new corporate partners,” Wiseman says. “They’re community focused, so we’ll have an opportunity to work together on so many different levels.”

About the organization

  • Name: Blessings in a Backpack
  • Website: www.blessingsinabackpack.org
  • City: Louisville, Kentucky, and Chicago
  • Phone: (800) 872-4366
  • Mission: To mobilize communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry
  • How you can help: Visit the website and click on “Get Involved” to volunteer, donate, start a program, or fundraise.