A partnership between Washington County Public Schools, HARC, MD Food Bank, and more than 50 sponsoring churches and community organizations providing bags of food to feed hungry students over the weekend.
The Micah’s Backpack program in Washington County follows a model established in Blacksburg, VA. The program is designed to feed hungry students through a partnership between each elementary school and one or more churches/organizations in its community. Brought to Washington County by Trinity Lutheran Church in 2010, the program now serves more than 1,000 students in 33 schools and involves partnerships with more than 50 churches and organizations. Over 10,000 students in Washington County Public Schools receive free or reduced lunches and for many this lunch will be the last hot meal of the day. Children are especially hungry over the weekend when school is not in session.
How Micah’s Backpack Works
Each Friday afternoon identified elementary school children and homeless middle and high school children receive a bag of healthy food and snacks. The filled bag may include the following individual serving-size items: cereal, oatmeal, juice, tuna, peanut butter, crackers, macaroni and cheese, soup, applesauce, fruit cups, spaghetti, ravioli, beef stew, canned vegetables, and other nutritious food.
Who Can Participate?
Eligible students are identified by the school principal and a designated school staff member such as the counselor, social worker, or community liaison. Confidentiality of program participants is maintained by the school. A permission form is provided for the parent/guardian of each eligible student by the principal or designated school staff member. The form must be signed by a parent or guardian and returned to the school before a child may participate. Middle and high schools are exempted from permission slips to add flexibility for serving homeless students.
This growing outreach program is sponsored by numerous churches/organizations in Washington County, Maryland who donate food, pack the bags, and deliver them to schools each week. Program partners serve as secondary sources, not primary sources, of food or funding, as follows:
- Trinity Lutheran Church, Hagerstown brought the program to Washington County and now trains all new sponsors in best practices
- Hagerstown Area Religious Council (HARC) writes for grants to provide food; manages grants and donated funds; and recruits additional churches and organizations to participate in the program, matching them to a school that needs additional help.
- Washington County Public Schools assigns a liaison for the program at each school who selects children in need of the program, gets permission slips signed by parents, and ensures distribution of backpacks to the children each week.
- Maryland Food Bank helps to provide quality shelf stable food at a good discount. Grant funds and donations for the overall program are used to purchase bulk food from MD Food Bank and distributed equitably to each of the sponsoring churches and organizations.
- Grant funding and major donations have been provided to support some of the partner’s food costs from the following sources: The Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation, United Way of Washington County, Nora Roberts Foundation, Richard N. Funkhouser Foundation, FirstEnergy Foundation, Mathias Washington County Trust, The Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus Auxiliary, The Hagerstown Lion’s Club, and the HARC Hike for Hunger & Hope.
The following churches and organizations do the bulk of the day-to-day work of Micah’s Backpack, purchasing most of the food, packing backpacks, and delivering the backpacks (or bags) each week to their partner school.
Bethel United Methodist Church
Brownsville Church of the Brethren
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Concordia Lutheran Church
Emmanuel United Methodist Church
Evangel Baptist Church
First Christian Church
Hagerstown Church of the Brethren
Hagerstown Church of the Nazarene
Haven Lutheran Church
Hilltop Fellowship Church
Hollowell Brethren in Christ
Interfaith Service Coalition (supported by Hancock area churches)
John Wesley United Methodist Church
Marsha Green & Family
Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church
Otterbein United Methodist Church
Paramount Brethren in Christ
Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown
Redeeming Grace Church
Rehoboth United Methodist Church
Salem Lutheran Church
Shiloh United Methodist Church
Smithsburg Valley Church
South Washington County Food Pantry (supported by churches in South Washington County)
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
St. Ann Catholic Church
St. James School
St. John’s Episcopal Church
St. John’s Lutheran Church
St. Maria Goretti High School
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Smithsburg
Trinity Lutheran Church, Hagerstown
Trinity Lutheran Church, Smithsburg
Unitarian Universalist Church
Valley Grace Brethren Church
Williamsport United Methodist Church
Zion Lutheran Church
Zion Reformed United Church of Christ
A Steering Committee of 6-9 members organizes, keeps structure, provides guidance, and helps to meet the mission of the program. Members include one leader each from Trinity Lutheran Church, Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) administration, Hagerstown Area Religious Council (HARC), and Maryland Food Bank, Western Branch, as well as representatives from sponsoring churches/organizations. Functions of the Steering Committee
- Strive for equitable distribution of food to schools by Maryland Food Bank, Western Branch, so all students’ needs are met
- Approve all publicity/fliers going to the general public
- Match sponsors to schools
- Train sponsors in best practices and continue to support sponsors in their efforts
- Hold quarterly community meetings for sponsors to share ideas and good stories and address any program issues
- Evaluate the program for effectiveness and lead changes when needed
Current Goal(s) of the Steering Committee
- Maintain Micah’s Backpack Program in all elementary schools and specific middle and high schools for the 2020-201 school year, overcoming barriers to COVID-19 and virtual learning.
- Ensure the full need of hungry children is being met in each of the participating schools.
How Can I Help?
Churches/organizations wishing to become sponsors, co-sponsors, or partners should contact Hagerstown Area Religious Council at email@example.com or 301-842-4272. Financial donations may be made out to HARC with “Micah’s Backpack” in the notes field and sent to HARC, P.O. Box 1158, Hagerstown, MD 21741-1158, or you may send your donation directly to a sponsoring church/organization.