FUMC Joshua supplies backpacks
of food for JISD students in need
nsuring children have full bellies so they can
focus on their school work is the goal for one
local church. Five years ago, First United
Methodist Church of Joshua created its Backpack-
s4Kids program to keep Joshua ISD students and
their families from going hungry throughout the
school year in partnership with the Tarrant Area
When FUMC Senior Pastor Dale Wilbanks
started in his position seven years ago, he con-
ducted a survey asking church members how they
should help the community.
“This church has a heart for kids,” Wilbanks
said. “We have access to a company called, Mission
Insight, that gives you all kinds of information
about communities. I found out that 51 percent of
our kids were food insecure.”
They didn’t know what it was going to take or
how they were going to pay for it, he said, but they
knew they wanted to help.
Shortly after the survey, they began providing
food to students in need at the JISD elementary
school that had the most number of “food insecure”
students, he said. They now serve over 100 students
in five of the district’s campuses.
The food students receive during the school year
doesn’t have to be refrigerated or cooked. Every
child in the home under 17 years old receives a
backpack of food, he said.
The church works with counselors at each of the
campuses to ensure the students are fed.
In the beginning, the church covered most of the
costs. Now, about 50 percent of the program is cov-
ered by community members, he said.
“It’s truly a partnership,” he said. “We’ve had
five years of building trust in the community.”
A culmination of that trust brought the church’s
Taste of Grace food trailer, he said, which will be
used to feed lunches to families in need over the
summer. Because of privacy laws, church officials
don’t have access to the students’ addresses, but
their goal is to travel to many different neighbor-
hoods over the summer to reach as many children
as they can, FUMC Discipleship & Outreach Direc-
tor Nicole Hutchinson said.
The students they’ve helped with the program
are progressing well in school by earning good
grades and having less behavioral problems, Wil-
“Our hunger is different in our country than a
third-world country,” he said. “But when a kid’s
hungry, they’re not going to be studying. They’re
not going to be paying attention to the teacher. If we
can feed them, hopefully that will be a battle won.”
JISD Superintendent Fran Marek said Backpack-
s4Kids is one of the best programs for their students
that she’s ever seen.
“It allows our students to have nutritious meals
on the weekends and during school holidays, ulti-
mately preventing hunger in our students,” Marek
said. “Hunger prevents students from growing and
developing appropriately for their age, which in
turn affects successful learning. Backpacks4Kids
provides students the opportunity to be healthy
and successful learners.”
The plan for the future, Wilbanks said, is to pos-
sibly send students home with some items in bulk
to ensure they have something for the whole family.
Instead of giving them a personal box of cereal,
they may give them a whole box of cereal, he said.
They’re still working out the details with the
TAFB, he said.
“It is the premiere program we do at the
church,” he said about Backpacks4Kids. “It’s our
most visible [program] in the community. That one
program has allowed us to be in the community
more than we would have been if we didn’t have it.
“The kids that get the backpacks, they don’t
know us, but they do know that there’s someone
who cares enough to do that. The parents know
that it comes from a church and the counselors
For more information about Backpacks4Kids,