This Milwaukee-area nonprofit is tasked with providing more than 4,000 children with food each weekend. Here is how you can help.

This Milwaukee-area nonprofit is tasked with providing more than 4,000 children with food each weekend. Here is how you can help.

Story by Cathy Kozlowicz of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

To bridge the hunger gap so kids don’t go hungry on weekends, Blessings in a Backpack — a national nonprofit organization with local programs in the Milwaukee area — needs your help.

The organization is tasked with providing food for more than 4,000 local children with food each weekend for the school year.

Each Friday, volunteers at local chapters of Blessings in a Backpack distribute food for children to take home for the weekend.

“Our food is discreetly placed in the backpacks of the kids in our program, thus the name, Blessings in a Backpack,” said Rebecca Melgares, board president and interim managing director of the Blessings in a Backpack Waukesha County Chapter.

Melgares said the food needs to be shelf stable, so it doesn’t need refrigeration or special equipment, such as a can opener, to prepare. She also said the food needs to be nutritious.

Children who are on the free and reduced lunch program qualify to receive a backpack with food, but social workers can also recommend or refer other children to the program.

Blessings in a Backpack feeds Wisconsin kids in Waukesha County, Menomonee Falls, and Brown Deer.

  • The Waukesha County Chapter covers food at 35 locations and serves 3,600 children each week. This chapter includes school districts in Waukesha, Oconomowoc, the Kettle Moraine, and the Hartland-Lakeside school districts. For now, the focus is on elementary schools, Melgares said. The chapter will celebrate 10 years this year.
  • The Menomonee Falls program, which is in its ninth year, covers 85 children in four of the district’s elementary schools.
  • The Brown Deer program covers about 270 children at Brown Deer Elementary School.

The Brown Deer program just completed its first year, said Angel Marti, the program coordinator. The program grew out of a desire by her church, Rise MKE Church, to support the school.

“We were told, ‘Our kids our hungry,'” she said. Some of the kids didn’t want to go home, as there wasn’t enough food there; one of the bus drivers would bring food for the kids so they wouldn’t go hungry, she added.

“We felt we really needed to focus on feeding these kids,” she said.

The Blessings in a Backpack Waukesha County Chapter has been expanding each year, Melgares said. “Last year, we expanded by 60%,” she noted. She said the group is considering serving additional communities, but is first looking at expanding to some of the middle and high schools for the communities it already serves.

Feature photo: Bimbo Bakeries employees packed a delivered food for kids in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.