We’ve Got Your Back
We’ve Got Your Back (WGYB) began as a weekend nutrition program created by Giving Children Hope for elementary students identified as homeless in Orange County’s school districts by the Orange County Department of Education under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. For the last seven years, this program has provided food and nutrition education for children and families in need. Each child in the program receives enough food for three to four family members throughout the weekend. Because these students do not have access to the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs over the weekend, this sustainable food source ensures that they always receive the nutrition they need. Due to the stigma attached to homelessness, the program is presented as a Weekend Nutrition Club where students can learn about proper nutrition and earn prizes by demonstrating knowledge of healthful eating habits while building self-esteem.
IMPACT: Currently in Orange County, almost 30,000 children are identified as homeless through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Giving Children Hope has been working to increase the provision of healthy meals on a weekly basis to a growing number of children and families in economic need. WGYB is currently available in 44 schools throughout Orange County, and the number of backpacks being distributed each week is just over 1,500. As a result, we are proud to report that we serve more than 5,000 individuals with about ten tons of nutritious food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, weekly.
PARTNERSHIPS STRENGTHEN COMMUNITIES: Every week, WGYB delivers backpacks full of food for students to pick up through their schools. Weekly volunteers fill the backpacks at the GCHope headquarters in Buena Park. The backpacks are then delivered by GCHope staff and volunteers to the participating elementary, middle and high schools throughout Orange County. Because we believe that getting these families to a better place involves more than a nutritional backpack each week, we partner with representatives at each school to connect families to other services in the community. Each school appoints a site coordinator, social worker or nurse to serve as a liaison between students and GCHope. The school liaison is instrumental to the success of the program. Through our personal method of backpack distribution, children and their families are encouraged to connect more with teachers and school liaisons, allowing for each child to be “case managed” within their own school. With direct contact each week, school liaisons are able to understand more about the specific needs of each family. GCHope is then able to leverage our networks of partners and resources to benefit these families even further. Our schools report that children benefiting from our We’ve Got Your Back program become more confident knowing they have a team of individuals who care about them and are supporting their families with consistent food and other basic needs.