BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Many Americans are still struggling to put food on the table, a full four years after the global recession ended, a new poll by Gallup shows.
“I’ve been passionate about this issue for years,” said Lou Ann Scates, registrar at Gardner-Webb University (GWU) and one of the founders of Gardner-Webb’s Bulldog Backpack Program. “It hits me deep and pulls at my soul.”
A few years ago, she and Susan Manahan, a GWU biology professor, read an article about the pandemic of child hunger, and both women immediately wanted to do something about it locally. They created the Bulldog Backpack program in 2010. The initiative provides non-perishable food items to hungry Springmore Elementary School (Boiling Springs, N.C.) students and their families on a regular basis.
Lou Ann Scates, left, and Susan Manahan, created the Bulldog Backpack program to respond to hunger in the Boiling Springs area.
By working with the school’s social worker, Scates and Manahan identified approximately 20 children whose family situations were desperate. While the families can manage one modest meal each day, and students benefit from free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs at school, a family’s food resources often become most scarce over the weekend. Social workers say that’s when kids often go hungry.
To address this need, Manahan and Scates began collecting backpacks and food items from the Gardner-Webb community. Now, each Friday, the backpacks are stuffed with food and delivered to the students’ bus drivers, who give them to the students as they head home for the weekend.
“I often get a warm, happy feeling on Saturday mornings after I have delivered the backpacks, especially in the winter,” Manahan said. “I am thinking that some child is drinking hot chocolate or eating hot cereal from the backpack when they might otherwise be going without.”
When the program first began, the backpacks were given to 15 families on a biweekly basis. Now, dozens of Gardner-Webb faculty, staff, and students give regularly and several classes have embraced the project as a service-learning opportunity.
To continue making a difference, the Bulldog Backpack program is in constant need of food donations. A food drive is being planned for the Sept. 28 home football game against Point University (West Point, Ga.), to be held at 6 p.m. at Spangler Stadium.
Donations are accepted outside the registrar’s office in the Dover Campus Center.