Local family looking for donations for Smithland Elementary School’s “Backpack Program”

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 5:05 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - A local family is doing their part to make sure kids have food on their plates.

Emma Phillips, who is running for Harrisonburg City School Board, and her husband have taken on the “Backpack Program” at Smithland Elementary School.

“We purchase food from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Hope Distributed and then teams pack those bags and those bags go home with some of our more food insecure students,” Emma Phillips, organizer of the Backpack Program said.

The kids get a free breakfast and lunch at school during the week, but on the weekends or over the summer, some kids face food scarcity and the Phillips family wants to help.

“Smithland Elementary School is the school in the area that has the highest number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches,” Phillips said. “They’re certainly not alone in this many of the elementary schools and even the middle schools are right behind them in terms of the number of students who are qualifying.”

At this point, all students at Smithland are getting free breakfast and lunches, but the Phillips family wants to close the gap on the weekends and summer.

”At Smithland Elementary School you’re looking at 83.8% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunches, so that’s like 564 out of 673 students,” Phillips said.

As the time approaches for many college students to move out of their apartments, the family is asking students to donate instead of throwing their good-quality items away.

The items that are donated are sold at a yard sale and all of the money raised at the yard sale goes to helping them buy food to put into the backpacks.

“Last year we were able to fund 20% of our budget through years sales and the items for those yard sales came from people who donated items as they were moving out of their college apartments, out of their college dorms at the end of the semester,” Phillips said.

If you would like to donate items to the Backpack Program, you can reach out to the Phillips family and they will help pick up those donations.

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