Sometimes the simplest of ideas can solve some of the biggest issues. That’s what Blessings In A Backpack has done in helping kids stay healthy, fit and ready for school.
In short, BIB mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry.. Currently, BIB feeds 93,000+ children in 47 states and 1000 schools.
Every school-aged child in America has the nourishment needed to learn and grow. As a leader in the movement to end childhood hunger, Blessings strives to ensure children don’t go hungry on the weekends by empowering individuals and communities to take action.
BIB works with 75+ Athletic Ambassadors and events nationwide to spread awareness and raise funding for children in need. Currently, these partnerships account for 13,000+ children being fed every weekend of the school year. This is equivalent to 499,000+ hunger free weekends annually.
Some Athletes of note from this school year who support BIB include: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. , Randall Cobb, Kyle Long, Jason Witten, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Jason Day, Evan Turner, Matthew Delladova, and Josh Harrison as well as teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, and Falcons.
We caught up with Beth Bush, Director of Athletic Partnerships to learn more about how BIB came to be and where it can go…
How did the concept come about?
Blessings in a Backpack was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 2005 by a school teacher who noticed her students were coming back to school on Monday morning sluggish, hungry, agitated and not focused. After talking with students, she realized many were not getting the proper nutrition over the weekend that a child needs for energy throughout the day. For some, their last meal was school lunch on Friday until school breakfast on Monday—that’s 65 hours without food.
Is there a criteria for choosing who you work with?
The only criteria is that the child is part of the National Free and Reduced Lunch program. Some states ensure all children receive breakfast and lunch so, in those schools, the school administration chooses the most needy children depending on what funding is available.
What is the ROI for what they do and what makes a good partner?
The return on investment is a child who is more focused and ready to learn on Monday morning. These kids are the future of our country and if they are hungry, they can not learn. Student surveys found that, in addition to no longer feeling weekend hunger pangs, children fed by Blessings in a Backpack experience the following impacts on their lives:
- 59% find it is easier to learn at school.
- 60% do not get in trouble as much.
- 78% feel cared for by their community.
- 71% feel they are helping their family.
- 60% of children report that their school attendance is better.
How important is star power vs someone who is a big fish in a small market?
Star power certainly helps. We work with 50+ professional athletes and lots of professional sporting events to help fund programs across the nation and call awareness to the childhood hunger epidemic. Most of our athletes are very engaged in discussing the need and spreading the impact of Blessings in a Backpack on social media. However, Big Fish in small markets are really how we began—these are the grassroots hometown heroes who serve their community. At BIB, we like to mention in every conversation how we have grown to become a nationwide program that is community sustainable. It only costs $100 to feed a child for the entire school year – that’s 38 weekends of food for a child to take home.
What are some of the benchmarks you have hit to show success?
- 2012: chosen as People Magazine’s Charity of the Year
- Significant athletic event partnerships: Dale Jr. Banana Mayo Challenge and logo placement on Xfinity winning car; PGA TOUR Wives 25th Anniversary Celebration and Coffee Table book; Donald Driver Driven to Achieve Award; Community impact partner with PGA REACH at the PGA Championships;
- 2016 Northwestern University Dance Marathon beneficiary – one of world’s largest collegiate philanthropy’s
- 2016 NABEF Award for Volunteer Service to America Leadership Award in partnership with Sharon Stone
- 2017 honored with highest rating possible on Charity Navigator (4 Stars)
The project can be pretty unwieldy how do you keep things moving along and deliveries on time?
We could never implement this without our army of volunteers spread throughout the nation located inside each community. To support this group, we have on staff a Manager of Volunteer Services who works with a team to implement volunteer training, sustain portals of information which contains communication documents, a toolkit and more. We also have staff members in charge of day to day operations such as vendor relations, invoicing and payment, delivery schedules and lastly, each and every school has a dedicated Program Coordinator who is the point person for any questions, needs or concerns that arise.
Who are the most active athletes in the program?
We have so many incredibly supportive professional athletes. I cannot mention them all, but the real long term support has been substantial from Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr, The PGA TOUR Wives Association, Farmers Insurance Open, Zurich Classic, Justin & Kate Rose, Jim and Tabitha Furyk, Charley & Stacy Hoffman, Brad & Dory Faxon, and Mark & Amy Wilson. This elite group has stood the test of time and supported thousands of hunger-free weekends with BIB for at least 6+ years.
Is there one special story of success you like to share?
Yes. The first time I volunteered for BIB at a local school in Louisville, I handed a little girl a cup of applesauce. She said ‘no thanks, I don’t like applesauce’, and I replied “that’s okay, please take it home and give it to your parents or siblings”. She responded “Oh, I don’t have any parents or siblings”. Perplexed, I then said, “Well, sweetie, who takes care of you?” – she looked up at me with big green eyes and a smile and said “You do” and walked away. That broke my heart, but it also inspired me to make this a mission of my own. Some of these kids are being bused to school from homeless shelters, orphanages, and broken down trailer communities.
What advice do you give not for profits working with elite names?
Understand what their true level of engagement will be. Maybe they want to commit 100% with funding, volunteering, and marketing efforts. But generally, they can’t give from all of those areas. Some have time and no funding available, others have funding but no time. It’s tricky to make the right ‘ask’ of these busy, well known figures, so it’s important to understand what they are interested in investing up front.
What is next on the list in terms of success and growth?
FY18 will be focused on hunger deserts in larger urban pockets which we have acknowledged as our new Target Markets. Advisory boards are being set up with local community partners who will assist in implementation of fundraising efforts, school coordination and awareness in order to continue the path of community sustainable efforts.