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?

UWNEMN currently provides Buddy Backpacks in the following schools:

Koochiching County Schools   Chisholm   Hibbing   Tower
International Falls Elementary   Chisholm Elementary   Greenhaven Elementary   Tower-Soudan School
International Falls High School   Chisholm Head Start   Hibbing High School   Vermilion Country School
Indus School   Chisholm High School   Lincoln Elementary    
KOOTASCA Head Start   Vaughan-Steffensrud Elementary School   Washington Elementary   Virginia/Eveleth/Gilbert (Rock Ridge)
Littlefork Big-Falls School       Head Start   Eveleth-Gilbert Secondary
Northome School   Cook/Orr       Laurentian Elementary
    North Woods School   Mountain Iron   North Star Elementary
Iron Range Schools       East Range Academy   Parkview Elementary
Aurora   Culver   Mountain Iron-Buhl High School   Virginia Secondary School
Mesabi East School   South Ridge School   Merritt Elementary   Northland Learning Center
Pre-School       Head Start   Head Start
Head Start   Ely        
    Ely Memorial High School   Nashwauk/Keewatin    
Babbitt   Washington Elementary   Keewatin Elementary    
Northeast Range School   Head Start   Nashwauk High School    
Head Start            
    Floodwood   Nett Lake    
Cherry   Floodwood School   Nett Lake Elementary    
Cherry School       Head Start    



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 throughout the month of November. 

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.