Backpack Program

I’m thankful for the food that you give us because I have barely enough food to eat at my house. Erica, age 8

Food bags provide nutritious meals for children over the weekends, when they might otherwise go hungry

The Food Bank’s Weekend Backpack Program provides food-insecure children with a bag of child-friendly food items to take home every Friday of the entire school year. Nearly 1,600 children in 62 schools in Springfield and across the Ozarks benefit from this innovative, life-saving program that began in 2003.

  • 58K

    Food Bags

    provided annually

  • 62


    partner with Ozarks Food Harvest for distribution

  • 16


    benefit from the Weekend Backpack Program

How does it work?

Every Friday, Weekend Backpack Program participants receive food bags

These bags contain six nutritious, balanced, easy-open meals. The students are selected by teachers and counselors who interact with the children on a daily basis. Ozarks Food Harvest only accepts monetary donations for the program so we can purchase specific nutritious items in bulk to receive a discounted rate. Administrators report improved comprehension, attendance, self-esteem, health and grades. Watch this spotlight to learn more.


Feeding hope one backpack at a time

Bags include meals for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks, plus beverages. Examples of items offered include chicken salad, macaroni, mixed vegetables, corn, pears, mandarin oranges, fat-free white milk and chocolate milk, pretzels, hummus and oatmeal. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and soap are also distributed to rural schools. All of the food bags and hygiene kits are assembled by volunteers at Ozarks Food Harvest and delivered to schools, in bulk, by The Food Bank drivers.

Sponsor a Weekend Backpack Child

Benefiting Springfield schools

Arthur Mallory ECC, Bingham, Bissett, Bowerman, Boyd, Campbell ECC, Carver Middle, Cowden, Delaware, Disney, Fremont, Holland, Horace Mann, Jeffries, McBride, Pershing Elementary & Middle, Pittman, Pleasant View Elementary & Middle, Robberson, Shady Dell ECC, Sherwood, Sunshine, Truman, Wanda Gray, Watkins, Westport Elementary & Middle, Williams, York

Outlying schools

Bakersfield, Bronaugh, Central Park (Monett), Columbian (Carthage), Crane, Exeter, Fair Play, Fairview (Carthage), Hartville, Hermitage, Hollister, Hubble (Marshfield), Humansville, Hurley, Irving (Joplin), Lutie (Theodosia), Mallory (Buffalo), Manes, Marion C. Early (Morrisville), Monett, Mount Vernon, Northeast Vernon County (Schell City), Richards (West Plains), Roscoe (Osceola), Sheldon, Skyline (Norwood), Southwest RV(Washburn) Thornfield, Winona

The Weekend Backpack Program is a critical feeding program for kids

Children experiencing hunger have difficulty concentrating, are often sick, socially withdrawn or rebellious and less likely to excel academically. Ozarks Food Harvest was one of the first food banks in the country to establish a Backpack Program, which is now offered at nearly every Feeding America food bank in the country. Beginning with just one Ozarks school in 2003, Ozarks Food Harvest works to expand its program each year.

Schools must have at least a 50 percent free/reduced rate before being considered by Food Bank staff to benefit from the Weekend Backpack Program. Schools are selected during the spring prior to the school year, as all food is ordered and purchased in advance. To learn more, contact Mary Zumwalt at (417) 865-3411.



Annual radio-thon supports backpack program

Since 1999, iHeartRadio has hosted Hungerthon, a radio-thon fundraiser for Ozarks Food Harvest’s Weekend Backpack Program. In 2021, during Hunger Action Month, Hungerthon raised $275,058 to support children with food to take home over the weekends. You can become a supporter anytime by donating online now and designating your gift to the Weekend Backpack Program. You can also call Ozarks Food Harvest with your donation at (417) 865-3411.

A one-year sponsorship is $360 or $30 a month, and one school semester sponsorship is $180 or $15 a month.