Ten years ago, Bowie (Texas) Elementary School teacher Kayla Brown noticed that many of her students' classroom performances were off balance on Mondays. Out of control, irritable students affected the classroom environment, and it was due to the fact that they were coming to school hungry.
Brown contacted her pastor at Lighthouse Assembly of God in Bowie, and inquired about the church assisting in providing free food for Bowie's students to take home on Fridays. While most of the children were on free or reduced lunch programs during each school day, families were struggling to provide weekend meals.
From Brown's idea, "Backpack Buddies" was born. Families signed up for their children to receive assistance from the school, and their children's backpacks were filled on Fridays with kid-friendly, easily prepared foods. Donations of money and food from church members and local businesses help support the program.
Today, the program is still going strong. Lighthouse Assembly of God serves close to 250 students each week in two elementary schools. For the smaller church, this type of low-key, volunteer-run outreach is great for reaching out to the community and assisting those in need.
"We get a lot of support from the community and other businesses in town," says Justin Harris, pastor of Lighthouse AG. "This project is great for the church and community to partner together. It gets people involved, and people just love volunteering and praying over backpacks."
Harris says they have gotten a lot of positive feedback over the years, and parents are always commenting on how the program has touched their family. Other schools in the Texas area have adapted the program in their own schools due to Lighthouse AG's success with it.
In fact, the program is so successful that churches of other denominations and various community programs have partnered with hundreds of elementary schools across the nation to head up Backpack Buddies in their communities.