BackPack Program

If the only meals some children eat are at school,
what do they eat when they’re not in school?



The BackPack Program is a program that addresses this question.  The goal of the BackPack Program is to send children in need home from school with foods that are shelf-stable, kid-friendly and healthy. The foods are easily prepared and consumed when parents are working and can’t prepare meals for their children, or when there simply isn’t enough food at home for the children to eat.


The backpack foods are intended for the student and not to replace a family meal. If a family has more than one child in school, each child will receive their own backpack to take home. The foods are discreetly distributed to children in backpacks so they look no different going home at the end of the day than any other child.  The backpack can be either the child’s own or one provided by the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.


This program ensures that children come to school alert and ready to learn.  Studies have shown that students perform better in school when they eat three balanced
meals each day.


How does the program work?

Family support workers, guidance counselors and teachers identify children that could benefit from the program.  A letter is sent home with the child so the parents know why the child may be bringing home a little extra food.  Coordinators at the schools notify the Food Bank monthly with the number of backpacks they need.   The food is packed into plastic bags and delivered to the schools, where they are placed into the backpacks.  Backpacks are available as many times as needed.  Backpacks were first passed out for days children were out of schools for conferences, holidays, and teacher development days.  But we know that children are not just hungry at these times – they are hungry every day.  If there is a need, children may receive backpacks weekly.



When did the program begin?

The program began at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in 2004 with 100 backpacks at five schools in the Waterloo School District.


Today, the BackPack Program is available at more than 120 sites throughout the Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s service area.  These sites include schools, churches, daycare centers and community centers.  Thanks to many dedicated Food Bank and school volunteers as well as community support, more than 10,000 backpacks are distributed to more than 4,000 children each month.


This program is also available in the summer with distributions at Kids Cafe sites, youth activities, and summer feeding sites. For more information about the summer program, please contact the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.


How can I learn more?

Contact Anne Durscher by phone at (319) 235-0507 ext. 113 or by email at


If you are interested in volunteering for this program, contact Patrick Bird, Volunteer Coordinator by phone at (319) 235-0507 ext. 117 or by email at



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