Backpack Pals in Bethlehem helping the hungry

In the Bethlehem Area School District a mother named Nikki Testa started up Backpack Pals. In which she made bags of nutritious food for the students within the district for the long weekends. Testa started the program after Nancy Walters, from Easton Hunger Coalition, spoke at her church. Testa therefore decided to model her program after Walters program in Easton. Backpack Pals began in 2013 at East Hills Middle School and now its at five others in the Bethlehem area. For Testa she knew what it felt like to be hungry growing up; her mother was a single mom and was trying to make ends meet. Now Testa is on the other side and she believes that no child should go hungry which is why she started up this organization.

According to the article 53% of student in Bethlehem are eligible for the free and reduced lunch programs. For many of the kids these reduced lunches are the only opportunity to have a nutritious meal, which becomes an issue when they don't have school. This is where we hope to step in. As we start the All-Or-Nothing Campaign, Backpack Pals is the organization that won.

Testa explains that it hard to keep the Backpack Pals going because the constant need for donations and making them last. The program is clearly growing because since the start of the program they have only made 15 bags, but with President's Day  Weekend coming up they increased numbers to 80 bags. This is unbelievable all the hard work behind it. Testa has gone to schools and churches asking for donations so that all the bags get filled for the students in need. 

As Backpack Pals continue to succeed Testa's dream is to have a middle school coordinator with four feeder elementary schools  to help make the backpacks but it's very difficult due to the fact she's only making them out of East Hills. Although Testa doesn't get to see the children who get the bags she has heard plenty of stories. She hopes that when these kids get older they will remember this time and hopefully will give back in the future.






Stephanie Nickerson