Fighting childhood hunger goal of ‘Show the Love' event at Chick-fil-a Exeter

Submitted photo A young girl holds her weekend backpack, filled with nutritious foor for the weekend.

Every week, 700 kids in Berks County are sent home with a backpack filled with food from the Greater Berks Food Bank. Without the backpacks, these kids might face a weekend without enough food, as their families struggle financially.

To help raise awareness about the food bank’s Weekender Backpack Program, Chick-fil-A at Exeter Commons is hosting a “Show the Love” event to help the food bank continue to build this program.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 9, Chick-fil-A Exeter will donate 10 percent of all sales to the Greater Berks Food Bank’s Weekender Backpack Program. Guests at Chick-fil-A can also check out an in-store display that shares information about the program, as well as learn more about how to sponsor backpacks.

According to Doug Long, Manager of Marketing & Development for the Greater Berks Food Bank, in order for a school to qualify as a site for the Weekender Backpack Program, 25 percent of the students at the school must qualify for the Free Lunch Program. Those students are then invited to participate in the program. Long said typically, 50 percent of the eligible students participate.

Long said each Friday, the registered students are given a backpack to take home with them.

“It’s a mix of foods that go in there. We try to get some lunch and dinner meals; a can of soup or stew, there are always breakfast items like cereal, granola bars, 100 percent juice drink. We also put a non-food item in there like a toothbrush or shampoo, something like that,” Long said.

On Mondays, the backpacks are returned to the school, ready to be filled by volunteers the following Friday.

Long said there are currently nine program sites in Berks County, including Birdsboro Elementary Center in the Daniel Boone School District and Lorane Elementary School in the Exeter Township School District.

“It is a true community collaboration in order to coordinate,” Long added. “We administer the program; however, we rely on food being donated to us through corporations and through grants. On the other end, we rely on volunteers at the school to coordinate – registering, inviting the kids to participate and packing the backpacks.”

“In learning more about the program, we were shocked to find that kids in the elementary schools closest to our restaurant—Lorane, Birdsboro and Mt. Penn—benefit from this program every week,” said Chick-fil-A Exeter owner/operator Shawn Filby. “It is unthinkable that kids in our own backyard might not have enough food to get them through the weekend, and we want to make sure that isn’t the case.”

Long said his organization is looking to raise awareness that the programs is there. “A need exists and there is an effort to help kids with hunger,” he added.

Additionally, throughout the month of February, Chick-fil-A Exeter will add an extra component to the food bank fundraiser. Through the “Tea & Cookies” promotion, Chick-fil-A Exeter will donate $1 from the purchase of every gallon of Chick-fil-A iced tea and from every six-pack of Chick-fil-A Chocolate Chunk Cookies through Feb. 28.

The Weekender Backpack Program is a nationwide service that was started in Little Rock, Ark., where a school nurse discovered that kids were coming to her office on Monday mornings with headaches, dizziness and stomachaches—from empty bellies and a weekend without adequate nourishment. Today, the backpack program is part of 140 food banks around the country and serves 190,000 kids each year.

For more information on the “Show the Love” event, visit www.chick-fil-a.com/exeter or email exeterchickfilamarketing@yahoo.com. For details on the Greater Berks Food Bank, visit www.berksfoodbank.org.