Despite it being the second year that the Backpack Program has not been able to do their Empty Bowls Soup Luncheon due to COVID-19, the fundraiser has been as successful as ever.
On Monday, sponsored ticket holders were able to drive through the Beatrice High School Parking lot and pick up handmade pottery pieces directly benefitting the Backpack Program.
“We usually get about 300 in attendance, we sell tickets for a $25 donation, and participants get to come in and taste all the soups and get a hand-made pottery bowl, and really just enjoy a day together,” Patty Kaufman, a member of the program’s planning committee, said. “Since we were not able to do that, we scheduled a drive-thru food bowl event so at least people were able to come through, get a bowl. These are all sponsored tickets, so we had unbelievable sponsors this year. We were able to raise just as much as we have in past years, which is amazing. We just are so grateful for the community’s support, from small businesses and big businesses alike.”
Kaufman said the bowls were made by Cedar Creek Pottery, Southeast Community College students and Down Under Pottery. She said the Backpack Program is in its 13th year, and explained that they provide backpacks full of food to Beatrice elementary school students.
“We have grown the program from 25 our first year to now 125, so 125 backpacks each week go to the neediest families in our area,” Kaufman said. “We have volunteers who pack those things, and the schools are very supportive in getting those backpacks to the children each Friday, so lots of people needed to come together to make this successful.”
Kaufman said it costs $250 to provide one student with food for the whole school year, and that they purchase food through the Food Bank of Lincoln.
“What would be in those backpacks would be peanut butter and jelly, and some canned fruits and vegetables, possibly some cereal,” Kaufman said. “So pretty basic food. And then we are also able, because of the funding that is provided by our community, to provide milk vouchers, egg vouchers and bread vouchers so that they can go to local stores and get some of those perishable items. We also put in two pieces of fresh fruit every single week, and then we also do vouchers at holidays. We give out meat vouchers at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that the family can go get a meat of their choice.”
Kaufman said the program focuses on elementary students specifically because it’s the most successful area to be giving kids this kind of food.
“Once you get into middle school, high school, there’s just so much more self-consciousness about these kinds of things, about receiving food, no matter how it’s received. Free lunch or whatever those things are,” Kaufman said. “We’ve taken a lot of those barriers away with the way that we handle our free lunch and breakfast programs, and so just moving that into the middle school and high school just has not been as successful. So that’s why we target the elementary, to get that food home to those families.”
More information about the program can be found at biggivegage.org/Organization-Profile/Beatrice-Backpack-Program