BackPack Program


To assist children and youth in the Pierre area who may not have enough food to eat at home by providing them with easy-to-prepare weekend meals and snacks throughout the school year when no other feeding program is available. By helping to sustain these students, we seek not only to help meet their nutritional needs but also to promote their physical, cognitive and social development, and to enhance their overall sense of well-being.

Our History

The first backpack food program in the nation was established in Arkansas when a school nurse sought help for children in her school who were suffering from hunger. She had seen for herself how food scarcity apart from cafeteria lunches was affecting their physical health, classroom behavior and ability to learn. Since 1995, thousands of such backpack food programs have been launched in the United States, primarily through Feeding America (once known as America's Second Harvest), the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding South Dakota (formerly the Community Food Banks of South Dakota), an affiliate of Feeding America, founded its own backpack program in 2006 to serve schoolchildren in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

The Sioux Falls program inspired the creation of the Pierre Area BackPack Program. Having learned about it in early 2008, Pierre Area Referral Service started to explore the feasibility of a local program. We met with officials from both Pierre and Ft. Pierre Public Schools, who enthusiastically agreed to be partners in the project. These administrators were only the first in an ever-growing line of kind-hearted individuals and committed organizations throughout the city who, since its inception, have given life to the Pierre Area Referral Service Backpack Project.

In 2008-2009 we piloted the program with Buchanan and McKinley Public Schools as they had the largest number of children at risk. In 2009-2010, we expanded our programming to include all four public schools in Pierre as well as Ft. Pierre. In 2014 we also added St. Joseph's School.  We currently serve between 325-340 children (pre-k through 5th grade) each week throughout the academic year in Hughes and Stanley County.

The Pierre Area BackPack Program has been well received and through the generous support shown by local donors and volunteers our program continues to help meet the nutritional needs of our community’s children. Although Pierre Area Referral Service purchases some of our food items from Feeding South Dakota, we ARE NOT affiliated with them. The program is run solely on fundraisers, donations and food drives that are conducted throughout the year.

Want to help? Volunteer to pack bags
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110 W Missouri, Pierre SD 57501
Phone: (605) 224-8731
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