The success of Backpack Buddies is due to the work of the students in the Ridgemont FFA Chapter.
The Ridgemont FFA is helping to fight hunger in the Ridgemont Schools through an innovative program.
Backpack Buddies, a program in operation at Ridgemont for the past few years is making headway in combating hunger in that school district. The program, run through the Ridgemont FFA Chapter, supplies food to Ridgemont Elementary students in need. According to member Reliey Drum, the chapter collects donations for the food at the end of each month.
"We send a packet of food over to the elementary school for students that are on a confidential list that we get through the lunch program, the National School Lunch Program. It gives them food for over the weekend at the end of the month so they can eat if they have no food at home." said Drum
Several years ago, a unique funding idea was implemented to help offset the costs of the program. Member Adam Wagner explains.
"The first year I won reserve [champion at the Hardin County Fair] I decided to donate 10% of my earnings to the soup kitchen. After we started the Backpack Buddies Program, my mother and I, along with Mrs. Jolliff came up with the idea to donate the $60.00 which would pay for a year of meals to the students in the Backpack Buddies Program." said Wagner
Member Bailey Wagner noted that the success of the program over the last few years, and specifically the use of the Hardin County Fair Livestock Auction to help raise funds has made the program much more sustainable, which was crucial to showing younger members the value of the program.
"When we offered this before the fair, many of the students were not aware as to what the program was. As we explained what it was to them, how it worked, and how it has helped, and can help students in the elementary school. We told them it was a great program because many of the students are in need of food at the end of the month. The younger students were all on board when they realized how the program can help others" said Wagner
As for the response from the Ridgemont district, Drum said that the school has seen a marked improvement in classroom performance as the program has been implemented.
"When students are hungry in school it really splits their attention. They aren't able to focus, all they can think about is food. When we started the program several years ago, we did a survey with the teachers on student performance at the school. Later on, we did a follow up survey which showed significant improvement in grades, in attendence, and improvements in their quality of participation in class. So having that last meal over the weekend has helped them in school as well" said Drum.
If anyone would like to make monetary donations to help support Backpack Buddies at Ridgemont, they can contact Ridgemont FFA through the Ridgemont High School. Any and all donations would be accepted.