Story Spotlight: WSK Backpack Program Transition and Open House

Volunteers prepare Weekend Kits at the Sept. 8, 2023 volunteer and open house event for former WSK volunteers, donors and board members.

Across mid-Michigan, families are working every day to ensure their children have the healthy food they need to thrive and grow — but for the families of more than 15,000 children across Greater Lansing Food Bank’s (GLFB) seven-county service area experiencing food insecurity, this often means a parent must skip a meal themselves to ensure their child is fed.

GLFB implements a varied approach to childhood hunger by partnering with local schools and food pantries, as well as by connecting families to resources through mobile distributions and specialized community partnerships. Backpack programs like GLFB’s Weekend Kits program are a convenient way to provide bags of food which are designed to slip discretely into a child’s backpack to help meet their nutritional needs during non-school hours, particularly over weekends and longer breaks.

In July 2023, GLFB expanded our capacity to support mid-Michigan children experiencing food insecurity through our acquisition of the Weekend Survival Kits (WSK) Backpack Program after 12 years of partnership. Centralizing efforts under GLFB’s Weekend Kits program brings a new set of resources and expanded service area to schools previously partnered with WSK, which ultimately helps get more food to more kids.

“Any time we can streamline the process and make it easier to get food into people’s hands, it’s a win-win for everyone,” said Suzi Unruh, the outreach coordinator at Redeemer Church.

As part of the program’s transition, on Sept. 8, 2023, GLFB welcomed former WSK volunteers, donors and board members to a kit packing session and open house at the GLFB distribution center. While many attendees, like Suzi, had previous experience with GLFB, for some ― including Julie Young, former WSK board treasurer ― it was their first opportunity to get to know the food bank.

Volunteers load Weekend Kits for the first distribution to schools formerly partnered with WSK on Sept. 21.

“I learned a lot I didn’t know about the food bank,” Young, a shareholder at Simplified Accounting & Tax, said after the event. “I’m really excited about expanding my knowledge and ability to volunteer and hopefully help even more people.”

On Sept. 21, the first volunteer-led distribution to schools formerly partnered with WSK welcomed 30 volunteers to load and deliver 1,330 kits. In the coming months, distribution to these schools is expected to grow as GLFB continues our efforts to expand overall distribution of Weekend Kits by 25 percent this school year. Weekend Kits help ensure one of a child’s most basic needs is met so they can feel the full effect of a full tummy and focus on growing, learning, playing and just being a kid.

“We want these kids to succeed. This is our future,” said Suzie Unruh, the outreach coordinator at Redeemer Church. “Food should not be something they have to worry about.”

This Hunger Action Month, find your seat at the table to help keep mid-Michigan children nourished by volunteering with GLFB. Because when children are fed, futures are nourished.

Hunger Action Month is an annual nationwide month of action, hosted by the Feeding America network, to spread awareness and join the movement to end hunger.