School is back in session across central North Carolina and while all students are busy learning, not all students have full bellies. Hunger is a real problem in North Carolina and Northeast Wake Backpack Buddies is trying to change that.

Started in 2006 by a youth minister at Rolesville Baptist Church, Jeff Pethel had seen a young child in a convenience store scraping money together to buy a meal. That encounter led to North East Wake Backpack Buddies becoming an all-volunteer stand-alone charity in 2011. In August 2022, they are the CBS 17 3° Guarantee charity for the month.

Every weekend, Backpack Buddies provides food to children at 19 different schools who are identified as “food insecure” by teachers, counselors, and social workers at each school. Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.

Most bags are packed from a food pantry in Rolesville with kid-friendly food for all weekend meals and snacks. The nearly 400 kids served each week are located at schools in Rolesville, Wake Forest, Raleigh, Zebulon, and Knightdale.

Volunteer groups pack the bags and volunteer drivers deliver the food to the schools each Friday. It takes a minimum of 20 volunteers each week to pack and deliver all these bags.

The children are anonymous and funding comes from monetary and food donations from individuals, corporations and grants. The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina also contributes nearly 2000 pounds of food each month.

Providing healthy, balanced meals to children in the community who may go hungry over the weekend is the main goal of NEW Backpack Buddies. Students normally receive a free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school and this program allows them to focus on education and not where their weekend meals will come from.

There are also two neighborhoods that collect food every month.

Every month CBS 17 picks a different local charity to raise money and awareness for during the daily 3-Degree Guarantee.  Each day when the CBS 17 Storm Team gets the next day’s forecast correct within three degrees, we donate $100 to that charity. At the end of the month, all the money raised is totaled and presented to that month’s group.

To learn more about how you can help or how you can get help, visit the Northeast Wake Backpack Buddies website.