September 25, 2012
by Kelli Davis

C&S Wholesale Grocers sponsored a peer-to-peer mentoring program for BackPack programs. The participants got to visit with a mentor who is running a successful program. Kelli Davis of the Bay Area Food Bank visited the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler, Texas and wrote about her experiences.

This spring, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the rose capital of the United States, Tyler, Texas, for the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program through Feeding America. My concentration was on the Backpack Program and working on making my own quickly expanding program more successful. Brandi Lamberth, my mentor, was an amazing help in accomplishing this!

I work for Bay Area Food Bank's Florida Panhandle branch as the Child Nutrition Coordinator. Our branch location covers seven counties in the Panhandle from Pensacola to Panama City. We currently operate three child nutrition programs including Afterschool Snack (CACFP), Summer Food Service and Backpack Programs. In the past year, all of our programs have been steadily increasing. In 2009, when all of the programs initially started, we operated two snack sites, three summer food sites, and three backpack schools. This school year and summer, we operated nine snacks sites, twenty summer food sites and eighteen backpack schools. The Backpack Program currently serves roughly 881 students in six of our seven counties. This has provided a logistical and operational problem for our smaller branch warehouse, and me since I am the sole child nutrition employee in this office.

In May, I traveled to the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler for a two day visit with my mentor, Brandi. Brandi has been with her food bank for eight years and is truly a wealth of knowledge. She helped me determine ways to make my own Backpack Program more efficient. I was able to get information on transportation, fundraising and general operations of Brandi's program. She gave me valuable information on setting up what she calls "pod drops," where a few sites come to one location to pick up which, in turn, alleviates some of the stress on transportation personnel and funding. Probably some of the most helpful things Brandi taught me were about training, site management and reporting techniques. Brandi provided me with all of her training forms and presentations. This, in itself, was incredibly helpful since I was not actually doing Backpack specific trainings before. She also helped me come up with solutions for some of my site management issues and reporting procedures.

I learned so much from Brandi and am incredibly thankful to Feeding America for the opportunity! Not only was I able to use techniques to make my Backpack Program stronger and more efficient, I also got to eat delicious Mexican food, see beautiful roses and make a new food bank friend!

Tags: BackPack Program

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