We are so excited to introduce you to another one of our (in)RL sponsors – Feed the Children. This phenomenal organization was founded in 1979 with the mission of providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials. Since then, they’ve grown into one of the largest international charities based in the United States. This year at (in)RL you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about their Backpack Program & Teacher Stores in a special video!
Malia (name and details changed to protect privacy) loves books. While her reading level doesn’t match her age or grade, she digs in with gusto to any book she can get her hands on. When she is actually in class, her teacher can always count on her to curl up with a book any chance she gets.
Malia, her brother, two sisters, and mom are what her school considers to be homeless. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Homeless Education Program describes the challenges faced by students like her in a letter they wrote to us recently: “High mobility, precarious living conditions, and poverty have an enormous impact on the educational success of our students.”
Malia doesn’t get to attend school every day like the other kids. Her address keeps changing, on the days that she actually has an address. Catching the bus to school is nearly impossible. She misses many days of school because it’s just so difficult to get there.
Malia has her days, just like any child, in which she doesn’t want to do the work required of her. But most days, she’d rather be in school. Days outside of class are long, boring, and hungry. The school is cool in summer, warm in winter, and dry in the rain. The bathrooms have hot water, the lights stay on, and she gets to eat a good breakfast and lunch. And it has a library with books she can read for free. Even on a bad day, she has to admit that being at school beats being cooped up inside a car or wandering downtown trying not to attract unwanted attention.
In February, a Feed The Children truck rolled into Malia’s town and unloaded boxes full of backpacks, books, school supplies, hygiene items, and snacks at the school. Staff in the Homeless Education Program began calling students immediately, thrilled to surprise them with brand new backpacks and school supplies.
Malia remembers the day clearly. She had actually made it to class that morning, and the lunch had been a favorite. After the final bell rang, her social worker found her wandering toward the exit, a few papers and a tattered math book thrown into a plastic grocery sack.
“Malia, I have something for you.”
She followed the woman into an office where a beautiful brand-new purple backpack sat on the desk, its girth giving away that it held more than air and some packing paper.
“Open it up!”
Malia unzipped the bag (the zipper worked!) and breathed in the scent of new: crayons, colored and #2 pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, a notebook, folder, pencil pouch, scissors. Two new books to read. TWO! A ziplock bag with soap, shampoo, comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Another smaller bag with granola bars and dried fruit. She couldn’t remember ever having her own brand new school supplies.
“This is nice. Thank you!”
She tucked the grocery sack and math book into her new backpack, poked her arms through the straps, and walked out of school just like a regular kid. First order of business – find somewhere to curl up with her new books.
At Feed The Children, we do just that. We feed children.
But if you’re like many of us, you may be asking yourself, “What do backpacks have to do with feeding? And what happens when the children you feed get hungry again? Is it enough to feed a child today?”
We say “NO.”
Food for today is essential. People don’t function well when they are hungry, and children struggle to learn when their stomach is growling.
But unless we address the root causes of hunger, we aren’t changing anything. Children and their families need the skills, education, and resources to provide for themselves and improve both their present and their future.
That’s why we feed futures by feeding minds. Going to school is one of the best ways to help people rise above the cycle of hunger.
But for children without a permanent home, going to and finishing school can seem an insurmountable challenge. It’s all the more difficult when the adults in their lives can’t provide food on a regular basis, let alone purchase school supplies.
Feed The Children helps students stay in school by providing them with backpacks full of school supplies and personal care items. We also support the teachers in our nation’s poorest schools by inviting them to shop for FREE classroom and student school supplies at our Teacher Stores. These amazing individuals often pay out of their own pockets to outfit their classrooms and provide supplies for their students.
We are also excited to launch two new pilot projects this summer: a fresh food market in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, and a summer feeding program to serve children who receive free and discounted school lunches when school lets out for the summer.
If feeding children in body and mind gets you excited, we’d love to hear from you. We are thrilled to sponsor the (in)RL conference this year — be on the lookout for our video about the backpack program and Teacher Stores! You can also donate backpacks, volunteer in a myriad of ways, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our blog to learn more.