BackPack Program

During the school week, many children participate in the Free and Reduced Breakfast and Lunch Program at their school. Some of these children go home on Friday without a guarantee that there will be sufficient or healthy food over the weekend when school is out. They may come to school Monday morning tired, hungry and irritable….not ready to learn.

History of the BackPack Program

Initiated in January 2004, the BackPack Program was piloted by a partnership between St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, Erickson Elementary School and the Community Food Bank. With a grant from Tucson Electric Power and countless volunteer hours, the BackPack Program got off to a great start. In 2005, the program was continued with a grant from the Diamond Family Foundation. In 2006, the program was the recipient of the generosity of the UA4Food Drive which enabled the Community Food Bank to enhance and expand the program to include five community partners and eight schools, serving a total of 655 children. In 2009, Angel Charity for Children, Inc.’s generous donation added six additional schools and 450 children to the program.

How the BackPack Program Operates

The BackPack Program utilizes a unique relationship with community partners and participating schools to provide children who have been identified as needing additional food assistance over the weekend with a pack of nutritious, child-friendly food.

Staff at participating schools identify the children with the greatest need at their respective schools and every Friday, these children go home with a pack full of healthy food to see them through the weekend.  Each school has a community partner (a faith-based organization, civic group, another school, etc.) who, every week, picks up food in bulk from the Community Food Bank, puts the BackPacks together for each student of their partner school and then delivers those packs to the school.Through handouts provided with the BackPacks, the Community Food Bank is also able to provide education to the children and their families about health and nutrition information, programs and services of the Community Food Bank, and federal, state and local programs for which the family may qualify.

School Qualifications

  • 75% of the students attending the school must be eligible for the Free and Reduced Breakfast and Lunch Program
  • School must have a secure, temperature controlled area to store BackPacks until distributed
  • School must provide a BackPack Coordinator who will be responsible for the program at the school, attend meetings, and submit monthly reports.

Facts about BackPack Program

  • The BackPack Program currently provides weekend meals to 1615 children for 38 weeks during the school year.
  • The program operates in 18 schools in Pima County and 2 schools in Santa Cruz County.
  • There are currently 14 Community Partners.
  • New schools may be added to the program when funding can be provided for at least 10% of those eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch and a Community Partner can be identified.


For more information about the BackPack Program, please contact Linda Kraemer, Child Nutrition Programs Specialist, at (520) 449-8350.