While some are planning trips to the beach or mountains for Spring Break, others in our community are wondering how they are going to feed their children on those days where breakfast and lunch are not provided at school.
According to a study by the Baylor University Texas Hunger Initiative, Texas has a household food insecurity rate that is significantly higher than the national average. One in four children lives in a household that is food insecure, meaning that at any given time there will be no food to eat.
Kathy Ford, chair of the Backpack Coalition, an organization that provides meals for children in need, was shocked to learn that the problem of hunger existed in our own backyard. She, like many others, considered Round Rock an affluent suburb exempt from the kind of poverty that exists in larger cities.
“It was like a head-on collision the day one of my team members approached me, frantic to find food to feed 17 of her elementary-age students over Spring Break in 2011,” Ford said. “I was appalled. Didn’t we have agencies to care for these children? I quickly discovered this is a quiet and largely unaddressed issue in our community.”
Ford’s outreach ministry, known today as the Backpack Coalition, started with that initial group of 17 children in March 2011. By May 2013, they were providing weekend meals for 460 students each week at seven campuses.
Studies show that children who are inadequately nourished have difficulty learning. When a child is food insecure, the body naturally prioritizes the small amounts of food and how it will be used to fuel the functions of the body. Energy from food is first applied to maintenance organs like the heart and lungs. Social activity and learning are the last places that energy from food is applied, so children that do not have adequate access to healthy foods may experience social and learning delays.
Teachers across our District know that it is a challenge for students to learn when they are hungry. Many educators use money from their own pockets to at least provide daily snacks for these students in an effort to meet their needs.
Currently, the Backpack Coalition serves more than 1,000 students each week, with the bulk of those students attending Round Rock schools. Through a partnership with the District, the group is housed on the Round Rock High School campus.
The prospect of getting 1,000 bags of food prepared every week is a daunting one. Over the years, the Backpack Coalition had developed a system. Each week, hundreds of volunteers pick up grocery deliveries, unload and stock the facility and pack the food kits. Different volunteers pick up the kits for each school and deliver them and a third group hands out the kits to the students.
The group is funded by area churches, community groups and businesses. The cost of feeding one student for the weekend is approximately $5. The Backpack Coalition a 501(c)3 organization and is solely funded by donations. If you would like to contribute a tax-deductible donation to help feed the children in our area, visit the Backpack Coalition donation page.
Backpack Coalition partners include:
- Round Rock ISD
- Round Rock High School
- Sweet Home Baptist Church
- Great Hills Baptist Church
- First United Methodist Church
- St. Philips Methodist Church
- Palm Valley Lutheran Church
- The Fellowship
- Round Rock Presbyterian Church
- St. John Vianney Church
- Dell Volunteer teams
- Round Rock ISD VISTA program
- Round Rock ISD Food Services
- National Charity League
- The Effie Foundation of Fort Worth
- Friends of Old Town/Walsh
- Round Rock HS Zoi Chapter
- Round Rock HS Sweethearts Chapter