Tackling Childhood Hunger

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Hello, HTP readers. My name is Nina, and like many of you, I work full time in a demanding career. I get caught up in being spread so thin that I forget there are others out there who have it much worse. My stressful work week ends every Friday, but so many people carry their stress constantly. The most vulnerable of these people is children.


In Greensboro, NC, children at Jackson Middle School experience countless stressors: poverty, gang related violence, difficult access to school funding, and the normal challenges of adolescence. The worst, and most fixable of their stressors, is hunger: the majority of students at Jackson Middle School receive free or reduced lunch during the week because their families are unable to provide daily lunches for them. This means that when the school doors close on Friday, these children go home to bare cupboards.


Out of the Garden’s Operation Backpack program is trying to fix this problem. OOTG was started by Don and Kristy Milholin, two people who felt compelled to make a change in their community. As one of four children of a single mother, Kristy experienced hunger throughout her childhood. In an effort to break the cycle of poverty and hunger, she and her husband began bagging donated food at their kitchen table and taking it to local schools. The program is now feeding over 900 families in Guilford County. This video will give you an idea of the incredible service this program provides to hungry families. You will see that these families are grateful, gracious, and empowered.


At Jackson Middle, Operation Backpack currently provides seventy-five children with backpacks full of food for the weekend. Families are given enough food for two dinners, breakfasts, and snacks. At a recent donation event, Don shared with me that these backpacks mean kids won’t be eating pieced together “meals” over the weekend when their parents cannot afford food. He shared that some of these “meals” are things like ketchup and crackers. Sometimes there are no “meals” to be had. As sad as this is, it gets worse: there are over ninety kids on the program’s waitlist!


Our goal is to get every single kid off the wait list and into the program, should their family need assistance.


There are so many ways to help these children. We are urging the Greensboro community to donate non-perishables to OOTG. We are requesting financial donations from those who are able to contribute. Using financial donations, OOTG can buy food for kids and their families, and manage their overhead costs (storage, distribution costs, bags, etc.).


We have set up this fundraising page to collect donations: http://www.gofundme.com/1gynsc. Our initial goal is $1,000.00, and we hope to reach it by December 31 – we only have one more day to reach our goal! We are almost half way there, so if we can break it, all the better. These kids do not deserve this burden, and we are so capable of lightening their load!


This is a time of year when we are called to look outside ourselves and pull up those who are less fortunate. This is an opportunity to feel empowered and to change lives, and all it takes is a few bucks. I know you are busy, and I know you have your own obligations, but please, please consider donating to this important cause. Maybe a small portion of your gift budget could go towards this program? Perhaps you could forgo a Peppermint Mocha and funnel those dollars to this cause? Whether it is $5, $10, or maybe even more, your donation will support a group that so deserves help.


Readers local to the Triad Area: please post in the comments if you are interested in donating canned goods! We have several drop sites throughout Greensboro, and are happy to put you in touch with OOTG to volunteer in the warehouse!


Have you done any volunteering this holiday season?  I’ve made a few monetary donations but would love to get out there and do more…



  • Christine @ BookishlyB December 30, 2012, 2:26 pm

    I’d definitely like to find somewhere to volunteer on a regular basis, but I always use the “I’m a teacher, I volunteer my time EVERY day” excuse, or the classic “when would I do it? I have no time” excuse. I’ve thought about sewing blankets for homeless shelters or maybe taking on something like working once a month at a Sunday morning soup kitchen breakfast. Anything is better than nothing.

  • LSandoe December 30, 2012, 3:23 pm

    This warms my heart. It’s heartbreaking how many of my students go home to this reality on the weekends. This is inspiring to have an organization like this where I work and teach.

  • Lily December 30, 2012, 3:37 pm

    I haven’t volunteered in a few months. I am moving next week and starting a new job, and am hopeful that once we’re settled I can make a regular (2x/month, maybe?) commitment to a local cause or organization.

  • Claire December 30, 2012, 5:28 pm

    A really easy way to contribute to the good of your community is to donate blood. I do a plasma donation every 4 weeks, all year round.

  • Melissa December 30, 2012, 7:31 pm

    Thanks for featuring this – what a great program! I just made a donation on the Out of the Garden website and wish all the volunteers the best of luck.

  • Nina December 30, 2012, 8:25 pm

    Thanks so much for all your help and support, y’all!

  • Monica December 31, 2012, 12:27 pm

    This sounds like a worthy cause. However, you said it empowers the families but I don’t see how. Do you charge a nominal fee for the packs? That degrades less than free handouts. Or can people get packs in exchange for some kind of work or service? I encourage you to look up ways to make your idea even better.

    • Nina December 31, 2012, 3:36 pm

      Hi Monica!

      I chose the word “empowered” because these donations enable families to eat meals that are more nutritious and more filling than something pieced together using crackers and ketchup. A good, dependable food supply helps children grow, gives them a sense of stability, and creates a nurturing environment for an entire family. Think about all of the memories you have over meals shared with your own parents; without the draw of a table filled with food, would some of those memories have been created? Would you have learned as much in school if you were constantly hungry and anxious? I think the answer to both of those questions would likely be no.

      Also, families who receive these donations frequently volunteer at the warehouse, and donate when they are at a better place in their lives. I truly think the entire project empowers EVERYONE it touches – recipients and donors alike. I know I feel pretty helpless and hopeless sometimes, and all I had to do to feel better was spend some time writing a guest blog post to share a cause I believe in. Since then, over $1,500.00 has been donated (in less than 48 hours)! Out of the Garden is truly an amazing, and empowering, organization to be involved with.

  • Casey December 31, 2012, 3:17 pm

    This is such a great cause! Providing food to the hungry children will give them the energy and concentration needed to do well in school. Those meals can make the difference for these children in their ability to retain information, get good grades, and get scholarships!

  • Don Milholin January 2, 2013, 9:54 am


    What a lovely blog. Thank you so much. We are so grateful to you and Deuterman Law Group for your incredible support this December. You have far exceeded your goal for fundraising for OOTGP and we are so very grateful. We passed out more than 100 tons of food to school children and their families in the Triad in 2012 and will no-doubt exceed that number in 2013 with the amazing support of folks like you and Deuterman Law Group. Kristy and I thank you.

    Don & Kristy Milholin
    Executive Director, co-founders
    Out of the Garden Project

  • Rebecca January 2, 2013, 12:27 pm

    What a cool organization/cause!

    I went to Missouri for almost a week (got back last night!) and one of the nights at Urbana, we packed care-giver kits for people who care for patients with HIV/AIDS (specifically in Swaziland). It was a fun, easy way to help! I only got to package two kits (out of an overall total of 32,000), and I so wanted to fill more! We are working on bringing the idea to campus. 🙂

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