In 2006, the Quota Club of New Haven wanted to add additional projects to its community outreach program. Then club President, Patricia Jakupkovic, recalled that while teaching in the New Haven school system, she would see children sneaking an extra cereal to take home in their backpack. As a result of this line of thinking, the Quota Club contacted Connecticut Food Bank to determine how it could help hungry students and a long and solid partnership was formed.
At the time, Connecticut Food Bank ran a small scale food distribution program to local schools and was considering linking up with the national Feeding America Kids’ BackPack program. This program involves packing and distributing bags of kid-friendly, single-serving, nutritious foods to selected school systems. On Friday afternoons, school staff distributes the food to children identified by school personnel as being at risk of hunger over the weekend. The Quota Club of New Haven and Connecticut Food Bank both realized a huge need existed for the program throughout the food bank’s six-county service area. They also knew it would require a tremendous amount of volunteer and financial support if it was going to succeed. The Quota Club vowed to provide Connecticut Food Bank with both if they decided to go forward with it. The Kids’ BackPack Program has been growing rapidly ever since.
In the fall of 2006, the program began serving children in five school systems. About 18 Quota Club members volunteered each month to fill bags with selected food items, which were then boxed and distributed to the schools by the food bank. By the end of that year, the program grew to 17 schools and 287 students who were at-risk of hunger each weekend. It was not long before the program grew so much in scope that the Quota members began volunteering twice a month to pack bags and boxes. By the end of the school year in 2008, the program had almost doubled in size serving 527 students in 37 schools.
In the spring of 2010, the program had reached the point that Quota members increased their support to volunteering three times a month. Now, between 10 -15 members visit Connecticut Food Bank in East Haven on the first, second and fourth Tuesday of each month and dedicate two hours to filling bags with child-friendly food items. The club members pack between two and three pallets of food each visit – enough food for 360-540 children. Today, 1,700 children in 65 schools across 15 Connecticut towns receive food to take home on Friday thanks, in large part, to the team affectionately known as, “The Quota Ladies.”
Over the past four years, the club has donated nearly 1,300 volunteer hours to this project and packed more than 64,000 bags of kid friendly snacks. Its support doesn’t stop there. The volunteers continue to assist with a number of special events, and even collect 50-60 pounds of food from members at each monthly meeting.
Since 2006, the organization and its individual members have given more than $10,000 to Connecticut Food Bank, which includes a $5,000 donation in 2009 made by BJ’s Wholesale Club on behalf of Pat Jakupkovic. Pat was named a BJ’s Community Hero, in part for her work with Quota, and she chose Connecticut Food Bank as her charity of choice.
In all, Quota Club of New Haven has been a cornerstone and mainstay with the Kids’ BackPack Program and the fight against hunger in Connecticut. Because of its strong support we have been able to continue to expand the program. Knowing that we are supported by such a dedicated organization and faithful group of friends enables us to “get it done” no matter the need. Thank you, Quota Club of New Haven! You are a real community treasure.
Written by: Kim Damien
Connecticut Food Bank