At the beginning of every school year, the UW Bookstore is one of the busiest places on campus where students rush in and out for textbooks and school supplies. Yet, this time the bookstore is shelving something different.
In August, the UW Bookstore landed a new partnership with Adventurist Backpack Co., a backpack company with minimalist design, to help address food insecurity in Madison areas.
“What caught our attention and struck our interest immediately was that for every backpack sold the company donates 25 meals to families in need across the United States with Feeding America,” said Taylor Amann, the specialty buyer at UW Bookstore.
As UW Bookstore and Adventurist Backpack Co. got together, they found a common vision in fighting food insecurity, and thus forged a partnership.
However, instead of a nationwide mission, they stepped up their efforts to support the Madison community.
“After I made my first order with the company, I reached out asking if, in addition to donating 25 meals/backpacks sold, we could do some type of program with a local organization. That is when we thought of United Way of Dane County,” Amann said.
The UW Bookstore connected Adventurist Backpack Co. with United Way of Dane County to carve out a sustainable path to insulate local residents from food instability.
“We will be providing $1 additional of each backpack sale to United Way of Dane County,” said Kelly Belknap, the co-founder of Adventurist Backpack Co. “We hope that this additional partnership with United Way of Dane County can help support even more students and families in the area, helping to put everyone on an even playing field.”
According to Belknap, the company’s vision revolves around bringing awareness to hunger and health concerns in communities.
“Since I'm a recent college grad and was able to see first-hand the complications of food insecure students trying to go without meals and still be successful at school, we're trying to help make an impact with ‘backpacks that give back,’” Belknap said.
Food insecurity is common, yet it is more serious among college students.
A national study conducted by the collaboration of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness and Student Government Resource Center, concluded that 20 percent of students at four-year institutions are food insecure.
Moreover, the number nearly triples among first-generation college students, in which close to seventeen percent of the UW-Madison class of 2020 are first-generation students.
The Open Seat,UW-Madison’s first student-focused food pantry formed by Associated Students of Madison, provides students an opportunity to improve food wellness.
“Most of what we focus on is service — which is we get food donations, we get money to buy food,” said Yogev Ben-Yitschak, external director of The Open Seat.
They are looking forward to partnering with entrepreneurs who have a similar initiative, such as Adventurist Backpack Co.
“Any person who is assigned to fight the issue of food insecurity, I am all open to talk to them,” said Ben-Yitschak, “ Because I think it is such a ‘not-talk-about-it’ issue that many of the students do not expect.”