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BackPack Love in a Time of COVID-19

The Forsyth BackPack Program is one of a number of organizations that help feed students in need by providing backpacks filled with food for them to take home on weekends and such holidays as Spring Break.   

Pack 8 By Bonnie Davis

Forsyth BackPack Program Communication Manager

MARCH 31, 2020 – When COVID-19 restrictions prevented Wake Forest Baptist Health (WFBH) from holding its annual food-packing event on its campus for Forsyth BackPack Program, those involved knew they had to find a solution.

The annual event that WFBH has supported both financially and with employee volunteer manpower, supports about 1,500 local children who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school and do not have access to nutritious meals over Spring Break. The virus pandemic has pre-empted the school calendar by closing schools until mid-May, but there was still $23,000 worth of nutritious food that needed to get to hungry children.

“We are so grateful that Wake Forest Baptist Health wanted to continue with their commitment to feed hungry children even though our normal operating procedures have been interrupted, like everything else, as we all deal with the coronavirus,” said Carol Templeton, the President of the Forsyth BackPack Program.

Fill 4 “Their generous donation filled 5,600 backpacks for students which is enough for 22,400 meals.”

When staff at Pinedale Christian Church, which serves as the partner agency for Kimmel Farm Elementary School’s BackPack program, heard of the need, they quickly answered the call to provide space and volunteers to pack the food over two days. The church regularly works with Forsyth BackPack Progam to receive backpack food as part of the organization’s holiday supplemental program. Led by Children’s Minister Shon Earhart, the packing event, complete with health and safety protocols in place, quickly came together. 

The packing event volunteers were so efficient on Day One that the volunteers on Day Two were able to wrap up the packing by lunchtime. A total of 13 schools were scheduled to pick up the cases of packed food. A nearby Chick-fil-A caught wind of the effort and provided lunch and dinner meals to the volunteers.

“We can’t thank Pinedale Christian Church and its volunteers enough,” Templeton said. “It is so awesome to see this many people come together, rally around the community, and help feed the children in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.”

The medical center’s annual packing event is coordinated and organized by the Wake Forest Baptist Health Medical Guild and Julee Rose, a program manager who works in the community campaigns department. Her supervisor, Dave McIntosh, Vice President, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, volunteered on day one to represent the medical center.

Fill 44 “We live in an uncertain world, and that uncertainty is heightened in times like this when we’re facing a crisis,” McIntosh said. “For many of us, there is a desire to do something, but it can be difficult to know what we can do to support those in need. I love packing backpacks because as I think about those who are most vulnerable, I always think of the children in our community.”

McIntosh said that, when he saw the volume of food that was being packed, he was reminded what a serious issue food insecurity is for so many of the children in the community. 

“I count that morning I spent packing backpacks for kids among the most important things I did that day.”