kidsPACK feeds over 1,600 children every week (as of the time of this article). We know each child will take home a backpack every Friday packed with enough meals and snacks to keep them full over the weekend. We know that kidsPACK food will help them cope with daily challenges and improve learning outcomes.
But there’s one big thing we don’t know about them – their names. As strange as it may sound, this is not only intentional but a critical part of our program.
kidsPACK does not identify children in need of weekend food. We could make assumptions from statistics, but the warning signs of hunger can be subtle. Public records rarely tell the entire story. Without spending time with these kids day in and day out, we’d run the risk of overlooking those who need our help most.
Instead, kidsPACK turns to schools and teachers to identify “at-risk” children. When an at-risk child is identified, their teacher notifies the kidsPACK liaison for their school.
Teachers are our front line when it comes to identifying children in need. Their care and compassion for their students allow us to get kidsPACK’s exactly where they need to be.
The kidsPACK liaison at each school coordinates weekly deliveries of food but does not directly interact with at-risk children. Liaisons get the right number of backpacks to teachers, and teachers discreetly get backpacks to the right kids. Because kidsPACK school liaisons work alongside teachers and students at each school, they are best positioned to ensure that children in need receive weekend food.
We are fortunate to have many wonderful volunteers from across the community. Last year, over 4,800 people donated their time and expertise to our cause! We can’t thank everyone enough for their help, but at the same time, we want to respect our kids’ privacy. We never want a kidsPACK kid to feel self-conscious after a chance future encounter with a well-meaning volunteer. We want our kids to feel safe, and to do that, we need to know as little personal information about them as possible.
Our system guarantees at-risk kids will receive weekend meals without any associated stigma. Social pressures can be a struggle for any school-age child. For food-insecure children, the social stigma is so intense some children would rather skip meals than be seen receiving help.
Any hunger-fighting initiatives singling out hungry from their peers (such as waiting in a special line to get food) are likely to be poorly received. Poverty forces children to stand out in unexpected ways, including clothing choice, inability to attend field trips and other class activities, and lack of access to technology to complete assignments. We don’t want our program to contribute to the shame and embarrassment of hunger in any way, even unintentionally.
Our kidsPACK weekend meals are packaged in inconspicuous, unlabeled, plastic wrapped cardboard trays and placed in backpacks. The backpacks look the same as any child might take home; there is nothing to connect the packs to kidsPACK.
It might seem like a missed opportunity to promote our organization and message, but it maintains the privacy of our kids and protects them from any embarrassment. Our primary goal is to feed at-risk kids while helping them feel accepted and secure, and our overall discretion makes this work.
So while our volunteers won’t get to see the smiles on our kids’ faces when they get their meals every weekend, they’ll get something better – the knowledge they helped a child get much-needed food without shame or embarrassment.
If you are willing and able to lend a hand, please consider donating or volunteering with kidsPACK. Your contributions, no matter how small, will make a valuable difference in a child’s life.
- American Psychological Association Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO). What are the physiological effects of hunger on children? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/advocacy/socioeconomic-status/hunger.pdf
- Kellogg Company. (2016). Most Americans Don’t See Hidden Hunger in Suburbs. Retrieved from http://newsroom.kelloggcompany.com/2016-07-14-Most-Americans-dont-see-hidden-hunger-in-suburbs
- Pogash, C. (2008, March 1). Free Lunch Isn’t Cool, So Some Students Go Hungry. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/01/education/01lunch.html
- Butler, P. (2014, October 29). In their own words: Children’s experience of poverty in schools. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2014/oct/29/childrens-commission-experience-poverty-schools-in-their-own-words