We are a grassroots, all-volunteer program dedicated to helping alleviate chronic hunger in school children in Bluffton and Hardeeville. We are a registered non-profit in the state of South Carolina and a 501 (c) 3 under Crossroads Community Support Services, Inc.
BackPack Buddies of Bluffton started in 2011 by a group of volunteers from Grace Coastal Church, Lord of Life Lutheran Church and Temple Oseh Shalom. Beginning with 80 children in two Title 1 Schools, the program has grown to serve 700 children in all the schools in Bluffton and three schools in Hardeeville. In those 9 1/2 years, our community support has grown tremendously. Today, nearly every church in Bluffton, as well as numerous communities, businesses and individuals work with us to volunteer and to provide financial stability.
Our current board members are:
President: Ken Kroupa Treasurer: Sheri Capstick Secretary: Bag Program Coordinator: Chuck Miller Box Program Coordinator: Augie Ghessie Hardeeville Middle School Support: Member at Large: Sue Kroupa
- President: Ken Kroupa
- Treasurer: Sheri Capstick
- Secretary: Bag Program
- Coordinator: Chuck Miller
- Box Program Coordinator: Augie Ghessie
- Hardeeville Middle School Support: Member at Large: Sue Kroupa
What is BackPack Buddies?
BackPack Buddies of Bluffton (BPB) is a community-based program that feeds chronically hungry school children in Bluffton and Hardeeville. While this area may be perceived as wealthy, in fact there is a great deal of poverty. In Bluffton 61% of students were eligible for free or reduced fee meals in 2016 and 100% of the students in Hardeeville received free breakfast and lunch. Our goal is always to help to eliminate this chronic childhood hunger and to rectify the inherent obstacles it presents to the children. All children who participate in BPB programs are selected by school personnel who work with them daily and know their needs. Currently 250 children are served in the Traditional Bag program and 450 in the Box program.
How does BackPack Buddies Work?
There are 2 school year long programs; all food is purchased by BPB and packed and distributed by volunteers.
- The Traditional BackPack program provides a bag of food that is distributed to the elementary aged children every Friday to make sure that they have food for the weekend. There are 14 items in each bag of food: 2 containers of protein, 2 cereals, 2 pudding packs, 2 granola bars, 2 packaged fruits, a treat like Animal Crackers, 2 bags of Instant Oatmeal and fresh fruit.
- The Box Program is designed for older students and large families. Once a month a box of shelf stable food is picked up at school by the parents of children selected to be in this program. Each box contains about $25 worth of high protein, low sodium and low sugar food that will supplement the nutritional needs of 4 people. Large families receive multiple boxes.
- In the winter of 2020, programs were begun in Bluffton High School and May River High School. The students are identified, as in the other programs, as being chronically hungry including those who live in families who can’t supply adequate nutrition, homeless students and students who are raising children themselves. Two separate programs have been put in place—one supplies boxes of food from the Box Program. The second program is a pantry concept where a variety of filling nutritious food is available to a student who doesn’t have food for an evening or weekend.
What Happens to the Children in the Summer?
Concerned about the children during the summer when they aren’t in school to receive breakfast and lunch or food from BPB, a unique summer program was developed in conjunction with the Bluffton Farmer’s Market on Calhoun St. Children in both of the yearly school programs receive vouchers at the end of the school year to be used at the Farmer’s Market. Each week of summer vacation, they are able to redeem the vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2019, 300 children joined us at the Farmers Market.
Who is BackPack Buddies?
BackPack Buddies is ALL of us!! We are a grass-roots all volunteer community program supported by numerous churches, communities businesses and other service organizations. As an all-volunteer organization, we have no over-head—every cent donated goes directly to buying food to feed hungry children.
Our ability to serve the chronically hungry school children in Bluffton and Hardeeville is dependent on our community — both for volunteers and for fiscal sustainability. It costs $185 to provide a backpack of food every weekend and $225 to provide a family with a box of food every month. And … with more than 700 children in the program, we need a lot of volunteers! It costs $200 to provide a BackPack of food every weekend for the school year and $250 to provide a family with a box of food every month for a year.