Backpack Buddies: Beyond the Cafeteria

This volunteer-run organization provides supplemental nutrition to the ever-growing number of students in Georgetown ISD 

In 2009, the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance created a program to help students in Georgetown ISD who were facing food insecurity at home. Backpack Buddies president Bob Kostka recalls, “They started a pilot program for 52 kids at the old Williams Elementary. Its fast success inspired them to try it on a broader scale, and Georgetown Backpack Buddies was formed.” 

Now an independent non-profit, the group’s goal is to supplement families’ food budgets and supply on weekends. Today they serve all 17 schools in Georgetown ISD and any student who qualifies for free and reduced lunch is able to participate. In GISD, approximately 3,800 students qualify for federal breakfast and lunch programs, and roughly 800 also benefit from Backpack Buddies. 

What’s in the Bag?

Each bag contains 8-10 non-perishable food items—cereal, milk, oatmeal, two entrees, ramen, mac n’ cheese, vegetables, fruit, and snacks like granola bars and cookies. Volunteers purchase the food from Central Texas Food Bank, Labatt Food Service, and HEB before storing it at the old Carver School in retrofitted classrooms. Using this location helps ensure cash donations fund the purchase of food rather than storage space. Bags are packed by rotating teams Wednesday through Friday, then loaded for transport and distributed to schools.

Board member Rusty Langford encourages students in need of assistance to speak to a school counselor, adding, “These crucial partners help families qualify and enroll in the program. We also seek to build corporate partnerships and engage vendors and providers who can donate or supply items at a discount to keep costs low.” 

You Can Help

Backpack Buddies is also looking for new and diverse talents. The only qualification for volunteering is a willing heart, ready to serve whether filling a bag, lifting a box, or loading a truck. Rusty adds, “I think it’s as much a social event for volunteers as anything. It may be 10 to 12 people involved, and enjoying what they are doing because they want to serve the kids.”

Every Dollar Helps

With a projected $147,000 budget this year (more than 90 percent is for food purchase), the need for financial support grows along with the expansion of Georgetown itself. With an average bag cost of $4.50, a $100 donation will help feed 24 students for one weekend while $160 helps feed one student for an entire year. 

Click here to learn more and get involved.