Donna’s Backpacks

Donna’s Backpacks Brochure-rev. 9.19

The Need

In 2016 Bread for the World, a non-profit organization working to end hunger, reported that 49 million Americans are food insecure, 16 million of whom are children.

Closer to home, Feeding America Southwest Virginia  recently released a report identifying 2,000 Giles County citizens as food insecure.  Similarly, the 2018-19 National School Lunch Program Free and Reduced Price Eligibility Report shares that 220 students, out of a total of 428 students (over 51%), at Eastern Elementary/Middle School qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

To meet this challenge, NMO-UMC Church initiated Donna’s Backpacks in February 2011 to provide food for students who may have little or no food at home.  Newport Cares is designed to provide weekend meals for the neediest students who have been identified through the school’s guidance department.

Studies continue to show that hungry children have lower test scores, diminished learning capacity, increased behavior problems and increased tardiness and absences.

The Strategy

Meals are packed at the church each Thursday then and delivered on Friday each week during the school year.

Currently, Donna’s Backpacks serves around 30 students per week and offers food boxes to these same students to assist them over the summer months when regular school meals are  unavailable.

Over 160,000 individual food items have been distributed through Donna’s Backpacks since 2011!

Donna’s Backpacks is dedicated to the honor and memory of Donna Knepper Martin, founder of this ministry, who gave countless hours in service to her church and the greater Newport community.

How You Can Help

  • Food preparation & delivery
  • In-Kind donation of food items
  • Sponsor a student ($12/student/week)
  • Monetary gift

Check payable to:  NMO-UMC.  Please indicate “Donna’s Backpacks” on the memo line.

We are grateful for the support of many generous individuals from the Newport community as well as these local partners:

First Christian Church-Newport

Sherry Memorial Christian Church

BB&T Bank

Newport Volunteer Fire Department

Clover Hollow Christmas Tree Farm

Loosely Woven Quilters

Moog Components Group

Poly-Scientific Employees Federal Credit Union

Newport Garden Club

Newport Ruritan Club

Newport Village Quilt Club

Spruce Ridge Tree Farm

Home Depot

National Bank

Hilltop Grocery

Giles Carpet Sales

Giles Auto Body & Glass

Tickle Oil & Propane


The Pembroke Charity, Inc.

Pembroke First UMC (United Methodist Women)

Strong’s, Inc.

Donna’s Backpacks has been the recipient of grants from the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church and the Community Foundation of the New River Valley.

Food List

(Individual sizes/pull-top cans)

  • Cereal
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Pop Tarts
  • Milk Boxes (UHT)
  • Breakfast & Granola Bars
  • Vienna Sausages
  • Jif-to-Go Peanut Butter
  • Beanee Weenees
  • Juice Boxes Chili with Beans
  • Capri Sun Chef Boyardee Bowls
  • Tuna Kits Beef Stew
  • Premium Saltine Fresh Stacks
  • Chicken & Dumplings
  • Ritz Fresh Stacks
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Mac & Cheese Bowls
  • Microwave Popcorn
  • Raisins (1.5 oz. boxes)
  • Microwave Mashed Potatoes
  • Applesauce Cups Rice Cups
  • Pudding Cups Vegetable Cups
  • Fruit Chews (green beans, carrots, peas)
  • Hormel/Dinty Moore Compleats
  • Soup (vegetable, chicken noodle, tomato)
  • Fruit Cups (mandarin orange, peach, mixed)