Lexington, Virginia • January 3, 2010
The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) has added a weekend snack program for children to its hunger-relief services in Rockbridge County. More than 100 eligible students (those who receive free or reduced-price lunches) at Natural Bridge Elementary School now take a backpack full of nutritious food home every Friday.
In operation since 2006, CKWL uses student volunteers to prepare and deliver meals to individuals in need all over Rockbridge County. It accepts donations of food from W&L's main student-dining facility, the Marketplace; Walmart; Kroger; Virginia Military Institute (VMI); fraternities; restaurants; and caterers.
"After this school year is over, we'll check and see if we have the food resources to expand the program to an additional school next year. We definitely have the extra backpacks," said Jenny Sproul, coordinator of CKWL. She's heard positive feedback from participating kids and their parents. "For some it's probably a nice little bonus, and for others, I'm sure it's the difference between eating or not."
CKWL modeled the backpack program after a similar one run by the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Verona, Va. With recent extra resources coming to the Campus Kitchen from the Lexington Walmart, Sproul decided to start one here.
The students take the full backpacks home from school on Friday and bring them back on Monday or Tuesday. A teacher brings them back to Lexington to the Campus Kitchen. W&L student volunteers pack them again on Tuesday nights during a regular cooking shift. They deliver the packs to the school on Thursday afternoon, and a teacher puts them in the designated students' lockers on Friday.
Campus Kitchen staffers don't know who gets the backpacks; 105 students are now on the list. The school takes care of this detail to preserve the students' privacy. The Marshall Foundation at VMI donated the backpacks (more than 250).
Because the backpacks sit in lockers overnight and are not refrigerated, the food is different from that in CKWL's typical meal-snack program. Sproul said it has been a good opportunity to use the non-perishables that Walmart has been donating.
Sproul said, "It's wonderful to see the food travel through the community, from the different places who donate it to Campus Kitchen, to be redistributed into backpacks, and then passed along to Natural Bridge Elementary School students with need. At the Campus Kitchen we're thrilled to be a part of this puzzle and to see food that used to be thrown away serving a purpose in our community."