Food Backpacks 4 Kids Receives Largest Donation to Date

Hero of the Deep award to local volunteers leads to a $32,000 grant to feed hungry families as FB4K has done on the KP since 2009.


Jerri Turner, manager of the Pioneer-Kimball Starbucks, was named a Hero of the Deep at the Seattle Kraken home game March 9. She was honored with a video about her work in the community and a grant for $32,000 to be awarded to the nonprofit of her choice. A week and a half later, she visited Food Backpacks 4 Kids and presented a check to Executive Director Zaida Woodworth and Development Director Michelle Johnson.

“This is the biggest single donation we have ever received,” Johnson said.

The award is sponsored by the United Kraken Fund, created by Seattle Kraken, One Roof Foundation and Starbucks, and funded by the Kraken ownership. Nominees are individuals working to transform lives across the Pacific Northwest. The grant awards go to nonprofits with missions to advance inclusion, address homelessness, advance hunger relief efforts, empower youth and uplift communities.

“Serving is my heart and who I am,” Turner said. She has spent years working with nonprofits and individuals in need. When she first started working at her current location she set out to identify local nonprofits to support and posted on a Facebook Gig Harbor volunteer page. Johnson responded and a partnership was forged.

“When we heard of the Hero of the Deep Award, Michelle and I knew we needed to nominate Jerri,” Woodworth said. “She and her Starbucks team have been doing food drives, donating funds, and volunteering with us for the last few years. Every time we reach out to Jerri with requests and food drive ideas, she comes through for us.”

FB4K was founded in 2009 when a small group of volunteers sent nine backpacks home with Evergreen Elementary School students to ensure they had food for the weekend.

By early 2020 FB4K was serving nearly 300 students with backpacks available at all elementary schools and food pantries in the middle and high schools in the district. When the pandemic closed schools, it pivoted from providing backpacks to distributing food boxes at its site in Key Center and the amount of food they distributed more than doubled. (“Backpacks for Kids Steps Up in Time of Need,” KP News, January 2021)

In September 2021, FB4K closed its drive-through operation and opened a family food pantry, serving about 700 children at the time. (“New Leadership at Food Backpacks 4 Kids,” KP News, December 2021)

Families who are signed up can come select from the food that is available in the pantry without restrictions on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday between noon and 6 p.m. For those who cannot get to Key Center, there is a delivery service. “We have families who cannot afford the gas to get here,” Woodworth said.

FB4K now serves over 1,200 children, 500 adults and 250 seniors each month. The number of families with food insecurity has continued to grow, Woodworth said. They get much of their food from the Emergency Food Network. A recent posting from the Network noted that 2022 was their busiest year and that this year was likely to be no different.

“Emergency increases to SNAP (formerly food stamps) that families began receiving during the pandemic are ending in February. With the current rising cost of food, we anticipate that even more neighbors will need our support to keep their refrigerators and shelves stocked,” it posted.

FB4K recently started a “No Hungry Kids” program at Key Peninsula Middle School. Every morning as students arrive they are offered a snack for anyone who wants one. About 400 are handed out daily, with the goal to address ongoing hunger issues, reduce the stigmas surrounding food, and increase student awareness of their services.

Janice O’Donnell, the Communities In Schools of Peninsula site coordinator at KPMS, is also stocking her office and the program has meant students are more willing to come by to pick up food and accept a backpack to take home if the family is in need. “We are eliminating ‘hangry,’ ” Woodworth said.

“We need more funding to keep purchasing high-quality, nutritious foods for the children we serve,” Woodworth said. “We also need delivery drivers to get groceries to their homes, gardeners to help us grow food, food drives to stock our shelves with the items families need, and advocates in the schools to help us identify and feed hungry children.

“By working together, with aligned principles and mindfulness, we are able to offer the children and families in our community the kind of support that feels like caring. Just as food insecurity negatively impacts the health and well-being of children, this respectful care alleviates some of the hurt poverty and food insecurity cause.”