The backpack project

WWU Honors Program students pack up comfort and hope

Big family dinners. Pizza and popcorn on Saturday night. Brunch with friends. For most of us, these are familiar weekend pastimes. However, for some students at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Wash., the fun and relaxation of weekends are marred by hunger.

Lincoln High, an alternative school in Walla Walla, specializes in educating traumatized youth. During the week, the school also provides a safe, caring environment—and meals—for students whose home lives are filled with poverty, abuse, and neglect. When the final bell rings at Lincoln High on Friday afternoons and the weekends begin, some of these students will have no access to food until they return to school on Monday.

This untenable situation came to the attention of Walla Walla University students enrolled in the WWU General Studies Honors Program and members of the University Church, who in collaboration with administrators at Lincoln High, devised a plan to help.

“The project began last summer when the University Church took up an offering to aid the family of a Lincoln student whose parents were killed in a shooting,” said Eryn Hopps, WWU junior bioengineering major. “After this, the pastoral staff of the University Church began talking with staff at Lincoln to find ways in which the church could continue supporting Lincoln and its students.”

These conversations led to the creation of this backpack project, which provides backpacks full of food for 15 Lincoln High students each Friday as the weekend begins. The University Church purchased 25 backpacks (15 plus a few to spare) and pays for the food, while four WWU Honors Program students pick up perishable food items each week and pack the food in the backpacks. WWU students deliver the full backpacks to the high school each Friday morning, and Lincoln students pick them up on their way out of school later that afternoon.

The project costs about $70 per week. “Thanks to the generous offerings taken at the University Church, we now have enough money to provide food for our Lincoln students through the end of the year,” said Hopps, who coordinates the project. “We thank the members of the University Church for their willingness to help.” 

To break the stubborn cycle of hunger, abuse, and neglect, it takes an entire community of people who care, including one small team of concerned WWU students just doing what’s in front of them—stuffing backpacks with nutritious food and hope.

Want to learn more about The Backpack Project and how you can help? Contact Eryn Hopps at

Posted on Feb. 24, 2016

WWU students enrolled in the General Studies Honors Program help feed community teens.