Blessings in a Backpack

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Most people would probably be surprised to learn that almost 20% of the students in the Boerne Independent School District (BISD) live in poverty. If that comes as a surprise, then it’s downright shocking to learn there are actually homeless students in BISD. Boerne’s reputation as a charming, generally affluent Hill Country community belies the poverty tucked in its unseen recesses.

For these students, there are daily struggles with issues most of us take for granted. Just being able to afford the supplies required at the beginning of the school year can be impossible. Then imagine wanting to play in the school band, but not being able to afford to rent the instrument. Or not being able to afford the fee to go to Boerne Outdoor Academy with all your classmates. Or being unable to take art, technology, or AP courses, because you can’t afford the course fees.

Enter SAM’s Kids. Started by the late Sam Champion (for whom Boerne-Samuel V. Champion High School is named), this non-profit organization tries to bridge the gap to ensure students with limited resources can fully participate in educational and extra-curricular opportunities. For example, SAM’s Kids provides a new backpack full of supplies for students who would otherwise go without. It provides band instruments and uniforms, pays academic and extra-curricular course fees, and helps provide enrichment programs, to name just a few of its activities.

Another major issue faced by students living in poverty is hunger. Almost 2,000 BISD students qualify for the Federal Meal Program. While that equates to 20% of the student body overall, it varies by school–as low as 10% at Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary to a high of 47% at Fabra Elementary. While these students receive their breakfast and lunch at school during the week, many are going hungry on weekends. The consequences of hunger are much more than a growling stomach. Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement.

That’s where Blessings in a Backpack (BIB) comes in. This non-profit program provides a bag each Friday that contains breakfast, lunch, and three snacks (morning, afternoon, and evening), as well as shelf-stable milk and fresh fruit for the weekend. Its goal is to mitigate the adverse effects of childhood hunger, which negatively impacts a child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Currently, BIB feeds over 470 students a week. In addition, BIB provides snacks at several schools during the week for students who can’t afford to bring their own to school.

Another organization on the forefront of helping students in need is the Boerne Community Coalition (BCC). During the summer months when neither school meals nor BIB bags are available, the BCC steps up by preparing daily bag lunches (over 4,000 this past summer!) and providing scholarships for summer enrichment activities these students would otherwise be unable to attend. But perhaps one of the most consequential initiatives is the BCC’s Love Boerne Neighborhoods program, which helps families who can’t afford to make critical home repairs to ensure these students are living in a safe environment.

The three non-profits listed above–SAM’s Kids, Blessings in a Backpack, and the Boerne Community Coalition—are all-volunteer organizations with no paid staff. All three depend on community support for funding. If you would like to help them continue to serve the students who so desperately need their help, please contact them to see how you can donate:

SAM’s Kids: janet.dspain@boerneisd.net
Blessings in a Backpack: boerneblessings@gmail.com
Boerne Community Coalition: info@boernecommunitycoalition.com
General info for BISD: communications@boerne-isd.net

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