Burkmann funds backpack program for a month with $4K donation

About 200 hungry children will be supplied with simple meals every weekend for a month through Danville’s Backpack Kids program, thanks in part to a large donation by Burkmann Nutrition.

On Friday, director of nutrition technical service Brent Williams presented a check for $4,037.72 to Rev. Amy Meaux, board president of Backpack Kids. The donation “is directly derived from the volume of purchases made by Burkmann, somewhat like a customer rewards program. Burkmann is in turn designating these proceeds to support the Backpack Kids program in our community,” Brent Williams wrote in an email.

“It’s huge. For me, personally, it is hope. … The people, the community is starting to recognize that the fact that we have over 200 kids who are food insecure in our community is just not OK. And $4,000 can feed 200 kids for a month,” Meaux said.

The Backpack Kids’ largest annual fundraiser is Jennie Carol’s Memorial Mother’s Day 5K, which is set for this Saturday, May 11. “Part of this gift is to get some recognition for the Backpack program and to encourage other businesses, other entities and other individuals just to get involved” with the program. … And with the Jennie Carol 5K coming up, the timing was perfect” to make a donation, Brent Williams said. “With food insecurity in our community, we all need to work toward resolving it.”

David Williams, owner of Burkmann Nutrition, talks with Rev. Amy Meaux about the importance of children’s good nutrition. Photo by Robin Hart

A typical bag of food “has to be something that a small child can cook for themselves,” Meaux said. “All of the food is precooked. It doesn’t even have to be cooked in a microwave.”

Every child who is served by the program gets a bag of food delivered to their home on Fridays. “We try to do high protein items, because of the amount of food is limited. We try to pack the food with as much protein as we can. … It could be Chef Boyardee bowls, pork and beans and tuna packages with crackers.” The packs also contain granola bars, crackers and other healthy snack. We don’t do any chips,” Meaux said.

Twice a month, the food program sends home a complete meal, like spaghetti and sauce, shelf milk, and two cans of vegetables and fruit. If available, two individual-sized boxes of juice are also stuffed in the bags. Every child gets a jar of peanut butter once a month, and as many crackers as the program can afford. “They might get a box of saltine crackers or at least a sleeve of crackers,” Meaux said.

“We hope that today’s celebration will help increase awareness in our community about the need to support food insecure children and celebrate the work that is being done by dedicated volunteers,” Brent Williams said.

Meaux said the Backpack program has grown over the past several years and volunteers from five churches work together, year round, to make sure children have something to eat on the weekends. Many of these children only have something nutritional to eat during the school day, she said.

Churches working with the program include Trinity Episcopal, Indian Hills Christian, First Christian, Junction City First Baptist and Southland, Meaux said. “We’re hoping to continue to be more collaborative and bring in any churches and any people in the community who want to be a partner with what we do,” Meaux said.

“We pack about 200 bags and it costs between $5 and $7 to fill a bag. Then staff from the Family Resource Centers for Danville and Boyle County schools pick up the bags and deliver them to every family they provide services for, Meaux said.

“It’s not only that we’re feeding kids, it’s that we’re also supporting family resource centers, who are in the trenches with these families. They’re doing more than just bringing them food. They’re serving the whole family,” she said. “To know they can show up at the home, and all these kids are going to be fed, that’s one less thing the family resource person has to worry about, or spend their money on. To me, that’s freeing them up, liberating them to do other things for that family.”

“We spend our career here focused on the health and wellbeing and performance of animals. It’s a natural segway into the performance of our children,” said David Williams, owner of Burkmann Nutrition. “We need our children to be able to do their best at school, and they can’t do their best if they’re compromised with nutrition. That’s the reason we think that our company and the backpack program is a natural link. … It’s a natural thing for us to do because we live here and the children are the future people here.

“The future leadership are going to come from this generation, so let’s prepare them the best that we can. And having them to be well nourished when they go to school is part of their growth and development.”