The backpack program started at Talitha Koum in the Spring of 2008. Teachers were noticing how hungry the kids were on Mondays when they came back to school. They realized the children had not eaten all weekend except for the occasional bag of chips, candy bar or soda.
The Junior League of Waco’s Talitha Koum committee, which met with the Pre-K class once a month, decided to take action to address this need. A committee member would take 6 bags of food to the children every Friday. Food consisted of cereal bars, peanut butter crackers, juice and fresh fruit – anything that a child under 5 could open by himself or herself and eat. There were 6 children in this particular class, and the program proved to be an immediate success! Teachers and staff noticed that the children weren’t starving when they returned on Mondays. This resulted in greater success for the children both socially and physically. At this point, the Junior League relied on donations from the membership and our committee budget for food supplies.
In the fall of 2008, Talitha Koum approached us about supplying food for all twenty-four of the children. League members worked diligently to find a solution, but it was not until Spring of 2009 that a sponsorship program was born to fund our project. We decided to offer sponsorships to the community to help feed the children every weekend for the entire year. For $186, a backpack was provided that each week was filled with pop-top dinners (such as mac-and-cheese, ravioli, soup, or spaghetti), cans of fruit, cereal bars, and pudding snacks. For the infant children, formula was provided instead of canned or prepackaged food.
Within two weeks of launching the sponsorship program, we had sponsors for all 24 children and added 18 siblings who needed food on the weekends. As of 2012-2013 League year Talitha Koum is currently at capacity with 24 children needing backpacks. In addition to providing backpacks the committee prepares a healthy snack for the children on the first Tuesday night of the month while their parents attend a parenting class. The Junior League of Waco continues to make a difference in the lives of these children in our community who are food “insecure”.