From Homeless Backpacks to All Kids Win

Homeless and hungry children and teens are an existing, exponential problem in our country. It may not cross one’s mind that the student they see walking down the school hallway or sitting at the bus stop will be struggling to find a meal that weekend. However, there are many people, such as the members of the All Kids Win organization (formally known as Homeless Backpacks), that recognize this issue and are working effectively to feed hungry students and end the cycle of homelessness.

For the last seventeen years, 100% volunteer-based Homeless Backpacks has helped homeless teen students in Washington State. Over the years, the number of teens this organization has fed grew as schools and counselors reached out consistently. In the beginning, Homeless Backpacks quietly donated packed bags filled with foods like tuna, granola bars and instant oatmeal to schools requesting assistance, and the counselors would give the food to the students in need through confidential avenues. Up until last year when COVID-19 hit, Homeless Backpacks was helping over 600 students a week. However, as pandemic restrictions changed the way students were attending school, it also changed the way the organization was giving — big time.

The number of students Homeless Backpacks helped per week went from 600 to over 2200 almost overnight. The operation no longer functioned as it had originally; instead of counselors calling for the delivery of 10 or so bags, school districts began picking up food by the truckloads! The pandemic brought on huge transitions for the organization. It was time to expand their vision and their brand.

At the beginning of 2021, Homeless Backpacks became All Kids Win in reflection of this evolution. Stephanie Hemphill of All Kids Win says, “We rebranded and renamed our nonprofit because we are not only serving homeless students but also serving food-insecure students. They could be kids living with a family below the poverty line, a kid who is couch surfing to escape an abusive home, or any other situation that would put them in a position to not know where their next meal is coming from. Our vision is that hunger never stands in the way of education, so we want our name to reflect our mission and vision.”

Right now, the number of teen clients is up to around 1300 a week. As schools go back to a “normal” routine, All Kids Win plans on adopting their previous model again, although their organization will never be the same. With the overwhelming influx of volunteers stepping in, All Kids Win anticipates a smooth transition and looks forward to the growth. Their hope is to relieve some of the pressure so that kids can simply worry about kid things.

All Kids Win
homelessbackpacks.org

NATALIE BENSON