Bulldog Backpack Program Provides Food for Local Elementary School Students

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BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.— When Gardner-Webb’s Susan Manahan (biology professor) and Lou Ann Scates (registrar) read an article a year ago about the pandemic of child hunger, they knew they had to do something to help.

“We were sitting in Lou Ann’s office,” Manahan remembers, “and we planned the entire idea right there.”  That idea has grown into the Bulldog Backpack program, an initiative to provide needed food to hungry Springmore Elementary students and their families.

To help with logistics, Manahan and Scates contacted Jenny Scism, a social worker for the Cleveland County Schools.  “Jenny knows these kids, and she knows who need it most, so she picked the families and really ran with this.”

Scism realized that many families are able to manage at least one modest meal per day, and students enjoy free breakfast and lunch programs during the weeks.  It’s during the weekend that families struggle to put food on the table.

To meet this need, Manahan and Scates began collecting backpacks and food items from the Gardner-Webb community.  Now each Friday, the backpacks are stuffed with food and delivered to the students’ bus drivers, who give them to the students as they head home for the weekend.

When the program first began, the backpacks were given to 15 families on a biweekly basis. Now, dozens of Gardner-Webb faculty, staff and students given regularly, and several classes have even embraced the project as a service-learning initiative.  Because of this outpouring of support, the packs are delivered to 20 families each Friday.

“It’s rewarding to sit down to a meal on the weekend, and realize that someone who would ordinarily not get a meal is able to enjoy a meal because of the program,” said Manahan, coordinator of Gardner-Webb’s service learning program.

Scism, a social worker for more than two decades, says the program also helps boost achievement in the classroom. “I consider this a win-win for Springmore and for the students.  Children who have a much more consistent diet always perform better in school.”

To survive, the Bulldog Backpack program is in constant need of food donations.  They also welcome people to come and stuff the backpacks for the children.  Below is a list of acceptable foods for donation.

To donate, or for more information, contact Manahan at 704-406-4370 or Scates at 704-406-4263.


List of foods that can be donated:

* no glass containers please*

*no refrigerated items please*


Boxed juices

oatmeal – boxes with individual serving packages

individual serving cereals

Mac and Cheese singles

Pop Tarts

Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers

Individual serving size fruit cups/canned fruit (Zip top preferred if purchasing metal cans)

Individual serving size Applesauce

Spaghettios or ravioli

Canned soups

Pudding cups

small packages of nuts, trail mix, raisins, dried fruit

unpopped popcorn in  small packages

Vienna sausages

Franks and beans

Breakfast bars

peanut butter cracker crackers pkgs




Contributions by communications intern Travis Sherrill.