The United Way Brainfood program partners with the Harvesters BackSnack program to provide a book each Friday to students receiving a weekend food backpack. If you’re familiar with the Harvesters’ program, you know these are the kids who have the greatest need, often identified by school nurses and staff as “visibly hungry” and not necessarily part of the school lunch programs. For many of these kids, these books are their only books. At the beginning of the school year, they are thrilled to learn they can keep the books; at the end of the school year, they are talking about their bookshelves.
We know education can be a pathway out of poverty; BackSnack BrainFood hopes to help build that pathway. This program partners with the Harvesters BackSnack program to provide a book each Friday to students receiving a weekend food backpack. All books are collected through planned drives or received as donations from local businesses, organizations, and individuals. New inventory is sorted and shelved by volunteers who have been trained on how to sort the books by reading level and proper shelving techniques. Throughout the year, this program works with local schools to make sure that they have a bounty of books and that they match the appropriate reading levels of their students. In this past year, the Brainfood program collected and delivered 14,000 books for 400 local students.
All books are collected through planned drives or received as donations from local businesses, organizations, and individuals. New inventory is sorted and shelved by volunteers who have been trained on how to sort the books by reading level and proper shelving techniques.
This program started out the first couple of years as a pilot with Kennedy Elementary in Lawrence. We have added on schools gradually, as our supply of books has grown and now serve over 300 kids in the Lawrence School District. We supply elementary school with age appropriate new, or nearly new, books for each child in the Harvesters BackSnack program. This is a volunteer led initiative. Our volunteer team consists of six individuals who works with the schools, sort donated books and deliver the books to the schools.
SCHOOL SUPPLIES DRIVE
We work together to make sure that our communities’ children have the necessary supplies to start the school year. Volunteers help equip Douglas County students for school by staffing school supply drives during the summer at local grocery stores. Each year, the need for access to school supplies grows. We provide supplies to almost 5,000 students every year through these collections. This is a great opportunity for individuals and groups alike to get involved in their community!
UNITED WAY READERS
Children learn to read in the early-grade years so they can read and learn throughout the rest of their lives. A missed opportunity to read at grade level by the fourth grade could set an individual’s quest for learning back permanently. You can help by volunteering to be a United Way Reader. In conjunction with classroom teachers and the Boys & Girls Club, volunteers provide much-needed reading practice time with students, either one on one or with small groups, for one hour per week. These interactions help these youths to be on track towards literacy and inspire more confidence in their learning.
LITERACY KITS PROJECT
As part of our Education Goal, each year we pull together volunteers and organizations from across the community to assemble literacy kits. Each kit, filled with props, games and activities that make reading interactive, enhance children’s reading experience and provide guidance to parents on how to support their children’s education. Items include a book, a related enrichment activity, a set of alphabet flashcards, a box of crayons, and a pair of scissors. These literacy kits are then distributed to children attending Kindergarten Roundup to help these students feel ready to learn as they enter kindergarten and set them up for success in the future.
For information about the Brainfood Program, or to get involved as a Brainfood Volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org