Buddy Backpacks

Buddy Backpacks volunteers, food, and children

In the face of COVID-19-related school closures, UWNEMN and school staff ensured that children who rely on Buddy Backpacks continued to receive the food they need. 

What is Buddy Backpacks? Buddy Backpacks logo

UWNEMN's Buddy Backpack program provides a backpack filled with nutritious, nonperishable, child-friendly food items to children who are at-risk of going hungry over the weekends due to various reasons.  This program is designed to assist children that are facing hunger on the Iron Range. In today's world, more than 13 million children face hunger in the U.S. Children benefit greatly from receiving this program and have shown progress in the learning ability, attention span and less behavioral concerns at school. Currently, Buddy Backpacks is helping to fight weekend hunger by providing these food kits to more than 1,000 children between the Iron Range and in Koochiching County each Friday or holiday break from school. The program provides nourishment for food-insecure children so that they can come back to school on Monday mornings ready to learn, grow and thrive.

What is the need?

Poverty levels continue to rise throughout our service territories, with more than 47% of our children qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Teachers and school nurses have shared many stories of children returning to school Monday morning after a weekend without enough to eat. Many of these children complain of stomach cramps, headaches and dizziness. Some have a decreased attention span or lack enthusiasm to learn because they are concentrating on their hunger more than learning. While during the school week these children rely on the nutritious free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs, but the same cannot be said for weekends and school breaks. Children that are hungry are affected in many different ways:

• They suffer from iron deficiencies,affecting cognitive and physical development

• They are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school

• As teens, are five times more likely to commit suicide

To operate Buddy Backpacks, we rely on volunteers to help us pack more than 35,000 food kits each year. Volunteering to pack Buddy Backpacks is a great individual opportunity and is also a perfect team-building experience. 

To view available volunteer dates and to register, please click HERE.  The volunteer waiver can be downloaded by clicking HERE.

We also need your support at any level to fund the program. Sponsoring one child for the year costs $180 - just $15 per month!  Please support Buddy Backpacks through payroll deduction at your workplace, donate online today, or send donations to UWNEMN, 608 East Drive, Chisholm, MN  55719.  

If you have questions or would like additional information on Buddy Backpacks, please call Elizabeth at 218-254-3329 or email elizabeth@unitedwaynemn.org.