June Everett and her team at BackPack Society work to address food insecurity here in our hometown. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they focus on filling the food gap on weekends and during school breaks for students, their families and partner with school staff so students can grow, learn, and thrive.
+ What inspired you to start BPS and how did you get started?
Career burnout is what really shifted my focus. My professional career was in Human Resources and I woke up one day and knew I needed a change. I wanted to focus on helping others. I am very fortunate to have an amazingly supportive husband who has encouraged me at every step.
I originally looked into helping my hometown community in Rocky Ford, Colo., which has an 80 percent Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility. It was my husband who said, we have a school in our back yard, why don't you see if they need help. I, like many others, didn't think there was a need in our community. I started researching and found that Douglas County had about 7 percent Free and Reduced eligibility, which was around 5,500 students. I knew that this goal was obtainable and we could make a difference, one school at a time. I also knew that many students wouldn't sign up if they had to carry a bag of food and risk being singled out or looking different than the others. My original idea was to put this food in an unmarked and reusable drawstring backpack, hence "Backpack Society," a secret society where kids could get the food they needed without risking embarrassment.
I reached out to Thunder Ridge High School and just asked if a weekend food program would be something they would be interested in, and I rolled out a pilot program for 20 students. I was fully funding it myself, but I knew in my heart when more people found out about the need, they too would help.
+ Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree seem like affluent places? Why is this service needed?This is a great question. Most people don't realize there are folks right here in our community who need help. Hunger can affect people from all walks of life, it doesn't discriminate. Before the pandemic, we knew there was a need and now that need has grown even more. Many households are just one job loss, missed paycheck, or medical emergency away from hunger. Being an affluent community can overshadow those living right here who need help, which is why it is important for organizations like ours to exist.
+ What areas do you serve?
We currently have 25 schools in Highlands Ranch, one in Lone Tree and Sedalia. We just started rolling out to Littleton this school year, and plan to see large growth there.
BackPack Society Programs
Student Weekend Program — Students go home with six meals, plus snacks and drinks.
Family/Staff Program — Groceries for their entire household. Families pick up milk, eggs, meat, fresh produce, bread, etc.
School Pantry Program - Shelf-stable snacks and small meals students have access to at school.
Warren Village Outreach - A nonprofit that helps single-parent families transition out of homelessness. Food for after SNAP benefits run out at the end of the month.
Partners - Food Bank of the Rockies, We Don't Waste, Flower Baking Co., King Soopers Zero Hunger/Zero Waste, Copeland Family Dental, Mountainview Christian Church, Modern Plate.
"Helping others is something that has always been a part of my life. I grew up in a low-income household and didn't have much, but still, we would always share. There was a sense of community and extended family." June Everett