By Anne Terry
The Vashon-Maury Island Backpack Pantry Program was established in 2016 to provide weekend meals throughout the school year for students who experience food insecurity. This program is run completely by volunteers and operates under the 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax ID of Vashon’s St. John Vianney Parish. All donations go directly to purchasing food for students who might otherwise go hungry. St. John Vianney Parish provides storage space, covers the cost of insurance, and administration of funds, utilities, and taxes.
The Vashon Island School District identifies Elementary and Middle School students who need our program. Each month, VISD tells us the number of students in need. This number tends to grow throughout the school year, and has increased dramatically year over year.
We need your help in the form of financial donations to carry us through this school year and sustain our program into the future. Our current funds may take us through the current school year if the cost of food stabilizes and our student numbers do not continue to increase. Our October packing served 48 students per week. That number has already climbed, and we will pack individual bags for 55 students in our next session.
Backpack Pantry currently spends about $2,000 per month for food. Volunteers plan menus, shop for nonperishable food items and snacks, and gather monthly to load individual bags for a month of deliveries. Working in concert with the VISD, students receive an individual bag of healthy, balanced, easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly food items for assembling meals, with some snacks included. The weekly bags are discreetly distributed by school staff throughout the school year.
Backpack Pantry also provides ready to heat and eat food for high school-aged youth enrolled in the Student Link Program. Food is stored in the Student Link kitchen for youth to access a meal to go or a meal to be enjoyed on site. Student Link serves about 50 students and, with the Family Link Program, is under the umbrella of the VISD Links Alternative Learning Program. VISD Links programs were established for students who achieve better learning outcomes outside of a traditional classroom setting, and currently serves over 150 students.
We hope you will support our Island youth with a donation of any amount. You can set up a recurring monthly donation or a one-time donation to the Backpack Pantry via this link to PushPay: https://tinyurl.com/y68kxt94. If you prefer to donate with a check, make it payable to St. John Vianney (no abbreviations). Write “Backpack Pantry” in the memo line. Mail checks to: St. John Vianney, PO Box 308, Vashon, WA 98070.
Thank you on behalf of the Backpack Pantry Program and our Island’s kids!