By Michelle Caceres
Not all backpacks are filled with school supplies. At Stowers, Pinecrest, Buckhorn and Nelson Elementary Schools’ summer school programs, some were filled with peanut butter or pancake mix and syrup, provided to families in need through Seeds of Hope’s Summer Backpack Program.
A weekly program, the backpacks are distributed to students on Wednesday or Thursday then returned on Friday so they can be refilled and distributed the following week.
“Most summer backpack programs are aimed at feeding the child, but our backpacks feed the entire family,” said Seeds of Hope Founder Leda Eaton. “Hungry kids go home to hungry families.”
The program began last summer, and led by Florida State University student Tyler Moriarty, provided 40 backpacks of food to local migrant students at Stowers Elementary during its four-week summer school.
Due to the popularity of the program, it was expanded this summer and, led by Florida State University sophomore Allie Eaton, grew to 160 backpacks serving students at four schools.
Allie was in charge of ordering and picking up food for the backpacks, arranging volunteers, coordinating backpack drop-offs at the schools and ensuring backpacks were picked up for the next distribution. She felt like she made a difference this summer.
“Targeting students in need and giving them backpacks was really rewarding,” said Allie. “I loved seeing the kid’s faces light up when we brought in the backpacks and they wanted to know what food we brought for them.”
The success of the program last summer led to a regular school-year backpack program, led by Kim Jackson. At the end of last school year, approximately 70 backpacks were being distributed to families in need on a weekly basis.
In addition to the backpack program, Seeds of Hope also offers weekly distribution of food boxes on Thursday evenings from 5–7 p.m. at 710 E. Bloomingdale Ave. in Brandon. Its weekly distribution has grown from three families to 20 in four weeks. The charity also provides holiday food distributions that occur on the Friday before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
For more information about Seeds of Hope, visit www.SOHopeFL.org.