By Kirslyn Schell-Smith
Fueled Program Coordinator
Listen. Create. Build. Innovate. Adapt. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
When I started at LEF as the Fueled (formerly Backpack Coalition) Program Assistant, it took me a solid six months to understand the difference among the various food-insecurity organizations in Loudoun County.
We were frequently asked whether we accepted school supplies or frequently confused with other local programs by similar names. While I value our collaborators, our work is slightly different.
By the time I became the Program Coordinator, the question exhausted me, but more importantly—still confused me.
I knew the name, Backpack Coalition, needed to change, but how could I do it? How could I propose to change a program name that has been around for a decade? How could it be changed quickly?
But then I thought, well, my predecessor responded to requests from the schools to pivot how the program delivered food. We had worked diligently to evolve the program, always shifting to meet the needs of each school community. Why couldn’t we change the name to fit that?
After all, we often joked that this job doesn’t come with a guidebook — only guidelines — that are more dotted than connected. The answer came from a plastic container of building blocks, bricks and mini figures in my living room.
I’ve always loved LEGOs. When I was a child, I would sit and play with them for hours. As an adult, I still sit and play with them for hours. I like building something from nothing, using only my creativity, imagination, and lofty dreams.
I also like building from a plan.
When I was in my prime LEGO era, they didn’t make the 3-in-1 creator kits that come with instructions to build three separate creations using the same building blocks. Making something from scratch is fun, but I sometimes have even more fun adding onto my previous creations and reimagining what they could be—how can it be transformed to fit this moment?
That adaptation signals a shift—and with the right support, can spark new directions and create new connections.
As programs develop and are reshaped, it might be necessary to change the name to keep pace. This is why I am thankful for the strong foundation and building blocks provided by the founders and facilitators of Backpack Coalition—10 years of stability, growth, and providing.
Without stable footing, Fueled wouldn’t be possible.
I wish they had the 3-in-1 kits when I was growing up. But maybe that would have not allowed me enough flexibility to refashion the constructions.
While using the name Fueled might take some getting used to, I sincerely hope it will be embraced, especially by the students struggling with food insecurity.
I hope it helps to ease the stigma and that the need isn’t something that should be hidden in a backpack.
I hope it encourages discussions and ignites possibility. I hope it empowers.
But most of all, I hope it will be something that continues to be malleable, shaped, and formed by the individuals who are involved—sometimes we’re the builder and sometimes we’re the LEGO.
With a new name, new look, and same student-focused mission, Fueled is a compassionate food security program that provides meals to LCPS students that strives to empower and alleviate the traumatic stressors of food insecurity so they can be active participants in their education. Fueled serves students both through meal bags and in-school pantries. Fueled strives to empower and alleviate the traumatic stressors of food insecurity by swiftly responding to critical needs, creating community connections, and through thoughtful product sourcing. We are especially passionate about empowering students from historically marginalized populations by providing culturally appropriate foods through dignified means.