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Heritage Seniors Launch Program to Help Needy Peers

Each week, "Backpack Buddies" sends low-income students home with enough food for the weekend.

As the minutes click down to the Friday afternoon bell, most Loudoun County teenagers are thinking about the big game, performance or their plans for the weekend.

But for some, the only thought on their mind is when they'll get the chance to eat again.

Hearing about that kind of struggle is what prompted two Heritage High School seniors to start Backpack Buddies, a project that sends their classmates in need home with enough food for the weekend.

Senior Austin Brundage met this summer with a countywide organization that supports Backpack Buddies, which already exsists at some Loudoun County elementary schools, and decided to expand it to include Heritage, according to a news release put out by the school Thursday. Classmate Cody James joined him.

“My mom’s friend was talking about it because she started it at another school. After I heard about it, I wanted to take the initiative and start it here after I heard there was a need," Brundage said in the release.

The program relies on collection boxes for non-perishable food, and also donations from local businesses. A volunteer parent liasion delivers the food -- two breakfasts, lunches, dinners, some snacks and two drinks -- to those that need it, according to LCPS.

Starting collection this summer, Brundage and James have sustained enough food to feed eight students each weeekend, who are kept anonymous.

“We have no clue who (gets the food), which is nice because they don’t have to feel like everyone knows about their situation at home,” Brundage said in his statement.

The pair has enough food to last until January, when they will rely on monetary donations from Long & Foster in Ashburn to purchase the food each week.

“It makes us feel good because we’re helping out our peers. It’s confidential, so they can feel like they can step up and get food for the weekend. It’s not like everybody else knows. It’s a nice thing to know someone else is helping you," Brundage said.

The project will be part of the pair's entry into an upcoming DECA competition, but the seniors say they want the project to be sustained well into the future.  

“We’re going to search, toward the end of the year, for our successors to continue this program in future years," James said. "For now, we’re just trying to make sure we get off to a good start.”

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