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Weekend Survival Kits Help Homeless Baltimore Children

At the Maryland Food Bank, we often talk about our impact in large terms: 44 million meals. 1,250 distribution partners. 760,000 people in need. These figures reflect the scope of our work accurately, but behind them is a mosaic of programs, partners, and clients that bring our mission to life. Today, consider the impact of one of our most unique programs: Weekend Survival Kits.


You can provide a homeless child with a backpack full of ready-to-eat food

While thousands of Baltimore City children have come to rely on Free and Reduced meals during the school week, there are many students whose families don’t have reliable housing and are left to fend for themselves once the weekend arrives.

“The school systems only provide food Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, there are very few facilities available within the city of Baltimore where these children can access food,” said Christian Wilson, a local resident and volunteer.

Wilson and his wife, Pamela, started the Weekend Survival Kit Program after they met with local school officials who brought attention to the fact that many of their students were homeless and would go without food, or with very little food, over the weekends.

“They told us when the kids come in on Monday, they’re tired,” Pamela Wilson said. “They’re tired and they’re annoyed. Their behavior in school is effected by being hungry.”

After the Wilsons learned about this issue, they decided to take action with help from local churches in the Charles Village neighborhood. The couple started assembling kits of shelf-stable foods and handing them out to school students in need. Each kit includes foods — such as bread, peanut butter and cereal — that don’t need to be prepared or stored in a kitchen.

“These kits are designed to provide food for people who don’t have access to refrigeration or heating appliances,” Wilson explained.

The Weekend Survival Kit Program, which officially partnered with the Maryland Food Bank as a pilot program in 2013, served 50 homeless students in four Baltimore City schools every week during that first school year. Last year, the program expanded to reach100 students with the help a one-time grant that expired at the end of the school year. This year, program managers are hoping to raise additional funds through donations in order to reach as many children as possible.

“We’re working very hard to bring in the extra money to make sure this program continues,” Pamela Wilson said. “Every little bit helps.”

You can help to support programs like this by donating online.

10 thoughts on “Weekend Survival Kits Help Homeless Baltimore Children

  1. Judy Hannon says:

    Is there a list of foods that are best to go in the backpacks for donating? I’m also interested in helping to assemble the backpacks

    1. Hi Judy- The food we include in backpacks is very specific because it cannot be perishable, so we purchase it in bulk. The best way to help support this effort is to donate directly to the program. As for volunteering, you can fill out a volunteer application and get on our schedule. However, there is no guarantee you will be packing backpacks that day because our volunteer schedule is coordinated based on the priority from one day to the next. Please fill out an application on our volunteer page and our coordinator will be in touch with you. Thanks so much for thinking of us and supporting our mission to end hunger.

  2. Karen Heyward-West says:

    I am a part of a National Organization called Jack and Jill of America Inc, and we are looking to do a MLK project with 11 chapters from Baltimore to Northern VA, and I would like to have us work with MFB on this initiative.

    1. Becca Heller says:

      Hi Karen, I will have one of my colleagues follow up with you about this personally. Thanks for reaching out!

  3. Shannon says:

    I am trying to get a program like this started at out local Elementary School and would love some information on how to get this started.

    1. Becca Heller says:

      Hi Shannon, The Maryland Food Bank Weekend Survival Kit program does not currently have the capacity to add additional schools to participate in this specialized program at this time. Your school, however, may already participate in MFB’s general school pantry program. To find out, write to programsteam@mdfoodbank.org.

      Wishing you the best!

  4. Cecily York says:

    I would like some more information on how a business could create a fundraising program to help create the kits and possibly volunteer sometime this fall. Please email me for more details.

    1. Becca Heller says:

      Hi Cecily, Thank you for your interest in the Weekend Survival Kit program! We would love to support you creating a fundraising drive in your business. We have a web-based tool for that – our Team Fundraiser page:
      https://fooddrive.mdfoodbank.org/

      You can register your company’s campaign by clicking the “Start a Fundraiser” button.

      On the online fundraiser page, you can write a paragraph about why your team should support the weekend survival kits and even give it a headline for that. I would recommend that you put an end date on your campaign (like 30 days). That typically helps motivate people.

      For volunteering, you can register your group on our web site: https://www.mdfoodbank.org/volunteer/

      Feel free to reach out to us if you have further questions!

  5. l says:

    I’m glad to see this initiative come to pass. Many years ago I began working with someone at the MD Food Bank on this idea. It was called the “backpack program” back then. I’d like to discuss implementing in several county schools

  6. MARK BACOLOD says:

    I’d like to know how to get involved and organize food and/or funds for these weekend survival kits. Please email me.

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