Buddy Backpacks

Buddy Backpacks volunteers, food, and children


 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 in our region. 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

Who is served?

Buddy Backpacks Schools List


UWNEMN relies on volunteers to help us pack more than 30,000 food kits for local children at-risk of hunger. Volunteering to pack Buddy Backpacks is a great individual opportunity and is also a perfect team-building experience, and packing is now open to volunteers ages 12 and up!

Public and private packing sessions have been scheduled through February 2023. 

To sign up for a public packing session, click hereIf your company or organization is holding a private packing session, your company or organization will be given a private link to sign up for that date.

We also need your support at any level to fund the program. Sponsoring one child for the year costs $280 - just over $23 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.  

You can make a difference!

Thanks to the support of an anonymous donor, UWNEMN was able to provide Buddy Backpacks in the summer of 2022 at Meet Up and Chow Down sites and pop-up sites throughout the Iron Range.
2,958 weekend meal kits went home with children this summer thanks to that donor and volunteers!

CLICK HERE for a review of the Buddy Backpacks 2021-2022 school year program results.

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

Want to help feed local children at-risk of hunger?

$8/week covers the cost for one child to receive a Buddy Backpack all school year!

Click here to donate online, designate through payroll deduction at your workplace, or send donations to UWNEMN, 608 East Drive, Chisholm, MN 55719.