Campus Volunteers With Food Bank's BackPack Program

Last February, Nebraska Wesleyan University held its first Empty Bowls event, a soup luncheon fundraiser that raised nearly $7,000 for the Food Bank of Lincoln’s BackPack Program.

Empty Bowls organizers are preparing for another successful event but first they want to see the fruits of their labor.

For the first time, Nebraska Wesleyan students, faculty and staff are volunteering with the BackPack Program each Friday at Clinton Elementary School. The BackPack Program started over five years ago at Clinton Elementary when 50 backpacks full of food were sent home with students so they wouldn’t go hungry over the weekend.

The program has grown every year, to the 2,066 backpacks it is distributing this year to 22 public and four parochial schools in Lincoln and to schools in 12 area communities.

Nebraska Wesleyan decided to volunteer this year due in part to its successful Empty Bowls fundraiser, said Lauren Williams, Vista Volunteer. The NWU community wanted to meet those who the fundraiser was benefitting.

For nearly 30 minutes each Friday, NWU students help line up the elementary school children, give them a backpack stuffed full of staple food items, and send them home for the weekend.

Williams admitted she was a little worried about finding enough volunteers to help through the entire school year. But her worries didn’t last long.

“I always have students asking if I have enough help…if they can please come help,” she said.

Faculty and staff became interested too and were quick to volunteer when extra help was needed while NWU students were on fall break.

Now the campus is preparing for its Empty Bowls luncheon and is once again enlisting the help of elementary, middle and high school students, church groups, rehab patients, local artists and others to make more than 500 ceramic bowls for the event. Empty Bowls participants will be served a lunch of soup and bread and will take home unique ceramic bowls of their choosing as a reminder of world hunger.

The soup luncheon will be held Saturday, February 27 at Nebraska Wesleyan’s dining hall. Tickets go on sale in January.

And in the meantime, the campus will continue to fill those backpacks.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Williams. “Once they volunteer with the BackPack Program they will want to keep coming back.”

Anyone interested in making a ceramic bowl can contact Lisa Lockman.

Faculty and staff who are interested in volunteering with the BackPack Program during the University’s winter break can contact Lauren Williams.