Backpacks for Kids Program
The Culver City Backpacks for Kids Program believes that no child in the Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD) should go hungry or have food insecurities, especially on weekends when students don’t have access to school-sponsored breakfasts and lunches. The Culver City Council PTA, in conjunction with CCUSD, provides students in need with a backpack filled with non-perishable food and snacks each week to ensure that every child can eat on the weekends.
How it Works
Children from nine CCUSD school sites from preschool through high school are enrolled in the Backpacks for Kids Program. Number identifiers are used within the program to preserve anonymity. Supported by the Culver City Council PTA, the Backpacks for Kids Program is run entirely by volunteers and receives no funding from the school district, state, or federal sources.
During the school year when children are at home learning from a distance, families in the program pick up food bags at Farragut Elementary and La Ballona Elementary on Thursdays when they need them. To efficiently do this, volunteers pack food in the pantry located on the Culver City Middle School (CCMS) campus. Bags are then transported by volunteers to the two distribution sites. Currently, the Backpacks Program is also able to pick up produce at the Westside Food Bank that is then brought bag and organized to be given out with the food bags.
When children are attending school in-person, the Backpacks Program, working with CCMS middle school student volunteers, fill backpacks and load them on a cart to be brought up to the front of the school for volunteers from each school site to pick up and deliver them back to their schools. The backpacks are then discreetly distributed by school staff directly to the students on Fridays. Empty backpacks are then returned on Mondays to the schools which volunteers then bring back to the pantry to be filled up again.
How it Started
It started at one elementary school where teachers noticed kids being hungry on Mondays. Parent and school volunteers put together simple backpacks to provide food for the weekends. During the week the kids were eligible for free or reduced lunches and breakfasts, but something had to be done about weekend food uncertainty.
Three backpacks turned into 19 very quickly. Led by community members and the district superintendent, the program went district-wide in December 2013. The district program started with 50 backpacks and grew to 75. Numbers grew to 120 backpacks in 2016; and at its height, during the COVID school closures, we served more than 400 children. Currently, we are now regularly filling on average 200 bags each week, with almost 300 CCUSD students signed up for the program.