The Backpack Program bridges the weekend hunger gap for children, and Kids Aid works diligently to remove all barriers to participation. Children do not have to travel to access food because volunteers bring the food directly to children at their home, school, or designated summer neighborhood sites. Kids Aid also has “Pop-Up” Stops throughout the valley so food is accessible to everyone. Neither children nor their parents are required to fill out a form to sign up to receive food—if a child indicates that they need food, they get a bag.
Every week, Kids Aid reviews the food that is available at Food Bank of the Rockies and designs a menu using available food that has high nutritional content. Care is also taken to select age-appropriate food that children can prepare themselves and will not make the bag too heavy for children to carry.
Kids Aid typically distributes nine to 10 items in each biodegradable bag—two to three dinner items, two lunch items, two breakfast items and three snacks. The items are matched so children can easily prepare meals (e.g., canned chicken is paired with refried beans and tortillas to make burritos.) Also, to ensure that children who cannot access food at Kids Aid’s primary sites do not go hungry, Kids Aid delivers food to community agencies in strategic locations throughout Grand Junction. Some volunteers deliver food directly to children’s homes if they know that transportation is a barrier to accessing food.
Every Wednesday and Thursday, volunteers come to the warehouse and prepare the orders that will be distributed that week. Site Coordinators tell Kids Aid how many bags of food they need each week and share any unique circumstances or needed adjustments (e.g. if a site will be closed on their normal delivery day.) Sites are responsible for discretely distributing the food to students, so no child feels shame for taking it.