The Frances Xavier Warde School (FXW) works to instill a sense of responsibility in its students for the world they will inherit. This school year, students in grades pre-K through 3rd grade are packing 175 backpacks every week for neighboring Maternity BVM School on the West Side of Chicago.

We spoke with program coordinator Priya Valentito learn more about this program.

Why did you decide to get involved with Blessings in a Backpack?

I am the coordinate family service activities at my children’s school, FXW, and learned about Blessings in a Backpack through a friend. It was one of those things where the minute you hear that this program exists and why, it makes perfect sense. You want to be a part of it.

I had never asked myself what children receiving free breakfast and lunch during school do for food on the weekends. After learning about Blessings in a Backpack’s mission I had to ask – what can we do to help?

As a school, we decided to have students participate every Thursday. It’s really nice to get a classroom of kids involved – help them understand that this problem exists and how they can make a difference. It’s very tangible to them, they understand a kid is hungry, and we can offer food. The act of filling the bags is something that they love as well. It’s been a really nice partnership.

Have you learned any lessons through this partnership?

Involving students in the packing process has been really successful and rewarding. We’ve had several instances where kids will come up with their completed and food-filled bags and say things like, “Look at all this food – think about all the people who are going to eat from this.” They really get this and connect with the program itself.  

Do you have any tips for other Blessings in a Backpack program coordinators?

Be flexible. It almost never works out the way you had planned – there are a lot of moving parts. Keep a smile on your face. At the end of the day, even if you’re one granola bar off, it doesn’t matter. You’re making a really big difference in a lot of these families’ lives.

What keeps you inspired through your work with Blessings in a Backpack?

Putting a face to this work has been really important to me. I have been involved with a number of charities and volunteer projects in my life where you don’t feel truly connected to the work you’re doing and the impact you’re having on others. My favorite thing is going to deliver the bags. To be honest, when we first started, I worried that it was going to be more of a hassle – loading up the car, unloading the bags. Now, I wouldn’t trade that experience. I love going to the school, I love seeing the kids. If you have the opportunity to deliver the bags, see and meet the kids, it makes it all worth it.

Blessings in a Backpack is grateful for the work and dedication of our entire network of volunteers across the country. Click here to learn how to start a program in your community.