While many may not think of Douglas County as a community where students struggle with hunger, a new nonprofit has been formed to address just that situation.
Highlands Ranch resident June Everett decided to start the organization, called the Backpack Society, when she learned that there are nearly 300 students in her area and about 8,000 in the district who qualify for free or reduced school lunches.
“I started digging into the numbers and it was just a surprise,” she said. “People don't think that this exists here in Douglas County.”
When she spoke to guidance counselors at nearby ThunderRidge High School about her idea to help provide six weekend meals for these kids, they gave her the green light.
“These kids come in and they're not able to learn properly because they're hungry,” she said. “They see that every day.”
There are 97 students at the high school in need of a free or reduced lunch and 186 students at its feeder schools.
“A hungry kid is a hungry kid, it doesn't matter where they're located,” she said. “These kids get overlooked because of how wealthy the county is.”
The nonprofit is called the Backpack Society because the meals will be handed out in unmarked backpacks by the guidance counselor's office.
“I want to keep it as anonymous as possible,” Everett said. “I feel like they're going to be embarrassed so we need to be very careful in how we're distributing it.”
Everett plans to kick off operations with a 20-student pilot program at ThunderRidge High School during the last nine weeks of the school year. In August, she hopes to open it up to all the other students at the high school and possibly the other feeder schools in the area, depending on funding.
Eventually, she hopes to spread the program to the entire district.
“I would like every kid to have an opportunity to have a meal,” she said.
As the nonprofit gets up and running, there will be multiple ways the community can help out, including volunteering and contributing funds, she said.
Donations can be made on the organization's website, Backpacksociety.org, or on Facebook @BackpackSocietyCO.