No Child Goes Hungry (NCGH) is pleased to support Tennessee Wesleyan University’s (TWU) Love Thy Neighbor Project (LTNP) with a $1500 donation to its Back Sacks program. The purpose of the Back Sacks program is to alleviate food insecurity among school-aged children. The donation matches the program’s annual budget, allowing TWU to continue its Back Sacks program for another 12 months. Program leaders will use the funds to purchase a year’s food supply and make it possible for the organization to support an increased number of local food-insecure children.
According to Brittany Berry, LTNP Community Relations and Fundraising Coordinator, nationwide, 22 million children receive reduced or free school lunches every weekday during the school year but may not have access to these affordable meals over the weekend. The Back Sacks program gives children in the Athens and McMinn County communities nutritious and easy-to-prepare food over the weekends.
The Back Sacks program is just one component of TWU’s Love Thy Neighbor Project (LTNP), a campus initiative dedicated to eliminating the barrier of food insecurity for individuals at TWU and throughout Athens and McMinn County. The program was founded in 2013 by the Center for Service and Leadership staff and an AmeriCorps VISTA member to address issues of food insecurity in McMinn County. The Love Thy Neighbor Project seeks to regularly provide low-income individuals with healthy, fresh foods to alleviate the burden of food insecurity and encourage a healthy diet. In 2019, the TWU Campus Food Pantry served more than 2,500 clients, the Mobile Food Pantry provided food to 1,426 households, and the Back Sacks program supplied 70 school-aged children with weekend meals for 38 weeks.
Berry says that the LTNP spends an estimated $1,500 annually on the Back Sacks program alone.
It is Love Thy Neighbor Project’s most expensive program to continue participating in because receiving individually packed and sized meals that are shelf-stable and child-appropriate is typically the most difficult to find and afford,” said Berry. “The Love Thy Neighbor Project currently serves 73 students in three different school buildings in McMinn County every week, each one receiving a Back Sacks bag for the weekend.”
Berry adds that, on average, Back Sacks are distributed to students 18 weeks each school year, at the cost of about $1.14 per pack per student. Every bag contains two beverages, two breakfasts, two snacks, and two meals.
Berry says that the school’s hunger relief programs aim to serve those in need and develop the next generation of community service leaders.
We strive to make our students strong servant leaders,” said Berry. “Every Thursday afternoon, TWU students assemble Back Sacks bags in the LTNP pantry. TWU students also assist us by unloading and stocking Back Sacks items onto shelves. We also allow our students to volunteer through writing encouraging, unique, and uplifting notes to each student who receives a Back Sacks bag. Nearly every TWU student who volunteers with our pantry on Thursday afternoons is involved in assisting us with the Back Sacks program in some capacity. We value the sacrifice our volunteers make to make a difference in the lives of children in McMinn County, Tennessee, through the Back Sacks program. We are so grateful to No Child Goes Hungry for supporting our mission and gifting us with the financial means to continue serving those in need in our community.”
Rev. Kären Rasmussen, Founder and Director of No Child Goes Hungry, said she hopes the TWU Back Sacks Program inspires other universities to create similar initiatives.
No Child Goes Hungry is committed to connecting generous donors with local community programs in need, but we are also focused on education,” said Rev. Rasmussen. “I am so impressed by the work of TWU’s Back Sacks program leaders, and I am excited to share their story and their framework for success with other colleges and universities I work with—and our seminaries!”
To learn how NCGH can help support your local hunger advocacy initiative, contact us today.