Bowls and Backpacks Battle Hunger

Several years ago, teachers at Lincoln’s Clinton Elementary School recognized a curious weekly pattern in some students’ conduct. The teachers would grapple with unusual behavior and attention problems on Monday mornings. Those problems would disappear come Monday afternoon, only to rear their heads again the following Monday morning.

The cause of those Monday morning problems wasn’t clear to teachers until they realized what was solving them.

Lunch.

The teachers soon realized that school lunch on Monday was the most nutritious meal many of their students had eaten since their previous school lunch on Friday. The teachers weren’t dealing with students simply struggling to acclimate to a new school week. They were witnessing the face of hunger in Lincoln.

Now these students arrive to school on Monday morning eager to learn, and not just eager for lunch.

That realization led to the Food Bank of Lincoln’s BackPack Program. The program sends identified low-income children home from school on Fridays with a backpack full of a weekend’s worth of food for the family. Now these students arrive at school on Monday mornings eager to learn, and not just eager for lunch. Today, the BackPack Program serves more than 2,500 students in 50 schools in southeast Nebraska.

Funding the program through the years has been a community effort. And Nebraska Wesleyan University has played a significant role in the last three. NWU hosted its third annual fundraiser and hunger awareness event on February 27. “Bowls for Backpacks: An Empty Bowls Event” is a luncheon where attendees select locally crafted ceramic bowls and share soup and bread together. They keep the bowls as a reminder of the ongoing fight against hunger in their communities.

Associate Professor of Art Lisa Lockman has coordinated the fundraiser at Nebraska Wesleyan each year. She said the event serves as a valuable opportunity for NWU students and local artists at every level to showcase their work and contribute to a worthy cause. To increase exposure for the artists and event, the Lux Center for the Arts offered a preview of the event’s bowls with an exhibition throughout the month of February.

Approximately 500 people attended the luncheon at the Roy G. Story Student Center Dining Hall and raised over $7,800 to support the Food Bank of Lincoln’s BackPack Program. The result will be better Mondays for thousands of Nebraska children.