San Diego Food Bank


Fueling The Next Generation of Leaders Through Food 4 Kids Backpack Program

A backpack is an important school supply for any student. A backpack holds a student’s textbooks, pencils and notebooks. For some students in the community, it also carries the food they receive through the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids Backpack Program every Friday to take home at the end of the school week.

The Food 4 Kids Backpack Program, which was created in 2006, provides weekend food packages to chronically hungry elementary school students from low-income households who are at risk of hunger over the weekend when free school meals are unavailable. The program, which began with 60 students in its first year, is currently supplementing the nutritional needs of 3,500 students at more than 80 elementary schools in 19 school districts in San Diego County.

Principals, teachers, social workers, and guidance counselors who help run the program at their respective schools look for subtle clues to help identify children they believe could benefit from the program. “When we notice that children are trying to save extra food in the lunch line, we immediately reach out and ask how we can support,” shares Monica Martin, a counselor at Encanto Elementary School.

The answer in many cases is the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program. Every Friday afternoon before heading home, students enrolled in the program pick up their weekend food pack filled with nutritious, kid-friendly food placed securely in their backpacks by staff. These food packs are put together every week by dozens of volunteers at the Food Bank’s North County warehouse in Vista. By the end of the current 2023-2024 school year, volunteers will have packed approximately 120,000 food bags.

In addition to receiving food for themselves, the students are also given an additional “family pack” once a month, which includes a selection of meal-based food items like pastas and beans for the student to share and cook with their family. With the establishment of this program, the Food Bank is able to help fill a nutritional gap local schools could not easily address on their own.

“The Food 4 Kids Backpack Program is a hunger-relief program, but it is more than just simply feeding these kids who are at or near the poverty line. This is an investment deeply rooted in giving our future generations the proper nutrition they need outside of school hours in hopes of setting them up for future success,” Casey Castillo, CEO of the Food Bank shared with GB Magazine.

The expansion of this program over the years has been made possible because of the support of the Food Bank’s generous donors. Hundreds of students have been taken off waiting lists and added to the program, but many more children are still waiting for their turn to have their backpack filled with a bag of food on Friday to nourish them over the weekend.

To learn more about the program or to donate online in support of this critical program, visit


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Esteban Villanueva