Dhillon Gurpreet Singh and Shannon Huang | PC: Darren Heslop
In 2015, when Berrien Springs residents saw community students in need of school supplies, they created Backpacks for Berrien (B4B), collecting over 200 backpacks to distribute at the start of the 2015–2016 school year.
In January 2018, Andrews University students in the School of Business Administration’s chapter of Enactus (an international organization that brings together student, academic and business leaders in community projects) connected with B4B.
B4B has now expanded to include another major initiative: weekend meals for students on the free lunch program in addition to providing school supplies and a backpack. Each week, several Enactus members fill plastic grocery bags with individually packed food items that children can easily serve themselves. These bags are delivered to schools on Thursdays for students to pick up on Fridays.
Sixty-eight percent of K–12 students need food assistance during the school day in Berrien Springs Public Schools. Students notify school counselors if they need help, and counselors encourage parents to approve their child to receive B4B benefits.
“We know the need is greater,” says Kimberly Pichot, associate professor of Marketing and Enactus sponsor. “A year-and-a-half ago, B4B served only 25 kids. Now it serves 81 at five different schools, and it’s estimated the need is at least double what we’re currently serving.”
The cost to feed a child each weekend for a year is about $300. This fact has impacted the students working on the project. Shannon Huang, a junior Informatics major and Enactus member, says, “I grew up with the privilege of having plenty of food at home. I wanted to work on this project specifically because there are kids who don’t have the necessities — things that allow them to learn well. I just hang out with my friends and listen to music for two hours every week to pack bags, and it helps get food to kids who need it.”
“It’s a huge responsibility and not something we can take lightly,” says Pichot. “The Andrews students who are really involved, they know they’re making a grassroots impact. A child went to bed with a full tummy and they had something to do with that.”
Dhillon Gurpreet Singh is a junior Marketing major who connected with the project through his e-marketing class, which has created multiple social media accounts for B4B. “Marketing a nonprofit organization is not easy,” he says. “You can’t just sell your faith and expect people to believe in your faith. You have to show what the group is doing and give people something to believe.”
He continues, “I come from a family where my father and all my uncles are businessmen and very financially conscious, but I’ve learned something new. The motivation behind marketing nonprofit is about more than making money — it’s about making others feel better.”
Andrews students also assist B4B in other ways: creating a new promotional video, the process of incorporating B4B to have official 501c3 (not-for-profit status), and writing grants.
“My hope is that as a community, as a university, we can address long-term solutions to child hunger because it’s very real in our own backyard,” says Pichot. “We can’t do it alone — it has to be a community effort.”