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Faces of Hunger: Children

One in four children in Oklahoma is at risk for hunger every day. Unfortunately, for many children, hunger isn't just an occasional missed meal, it is a way of life. Children who live with hunger develop physically and socially at a slower pace than their peers. Chronically hungry children experience higher levels of anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability and aggression. Chronic hunger results in students with lower attendance rates at school and lower academic performance. Even relatively short-term nutritional deficiencies can negatively impact a child's health, causing cognitive and developmental damage that prevents them from performing at their full potential.

The Regional Food Bank is committed to the fight against childhood hunger through its Childhood Hunger Initiative, because we believe children have better things to worry about than hunger.

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Kids are Happy and Healthy Thanks to You

Evangelist Baptist Church Kids Cafe

For many low-income families, the free and reduced-price school meal program alleviates the stress of buying groceries and packing lunches. But when school is out for the day, many of these children won't get to eat again until breakfast at school the next morning.

The Kids Cafe at Evangelist Baptist Church in Oklahoma City exists to make sure more children are going to bed with full stomachs. Through your gifts to the Regional Food Bank, this program provides a meal three days a week and a snack the other two days to nearly 70 children in 1st – 5th grades.

Kids Cafe Director Wanda Black says the children are much happier and more energized after eating the nutritious meals.

"They're so excited about the food when they come in!" she says.

Wanda says that for many of these children, the meal they receive from the Kids Cafe is the last meal they'll eat that day.

"Without this program, some of our children would more than likely not have a meal on the days we're not in session," Wanda says, fighting back tears.

In fact, three siblings in the program have told Wanda they only get to eat on the days they come to the Kids Cafe. They're being raised by only one parent who isn't able to provide enough food for them. The family is so grateful for the filling snacks and meals they receive each week.

Because of friends like you, these children don't have to wait until breakfast the next morning for a full meal. Your gifts to the Food Bank enable programs like the Kids Cafe to serve nutritious food to hungry kids when they need it most. The children and those who serve them are so grateful for the help you provide.

"We appreciate you so very much!" Wanda says. "We feel very blessed to be able to provide a service like this. It's like a miracle for our children."


You Keep Kids Full and Focused for School!

Presbyterian Urban Missions Kids Cafe

One in every four children is at risk of going hungry here in Oklahoma. Through no fault of their own, thousands of children in our community simply don't get enough to eat – especially with no school meals during the summer months or in the evenings after school. And a whole summer, or even just a night without proper nutrition, can be devastating for a child's academic success.

That's why the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma started the Kids Cafe program 13 years ago. Presbyterian Urban Mission's Kids Cafe, the Food Bank's pilot site, opened in 1996 and is still serving nutritious meals and snacks to our community's hungry children after school and during the challenging summer months.

Peggy Garrett, who also served on the Food Bank Foundation Board of Directors, has been the director of Presbyterian Urban Mission and its Kids Cafe program for more than a decade. She says most of the children she serves come from low-income families - many of whom are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

"There are a lot of parents who are working two jobs and can't afford daycare," says Peggy. "And a lot of these [kids] are responsible for younger siblings."

In addition to receiving meals they might not get at home, kids learn valuable skills like how to prepare food in the kitchen, how a restaurant works, and how to budget money through mock checking accounts. They also learn how to grow vegetables for their meals in Presbyterian Urban Mission's garden, which is part of the Food Bank's Urban Harvest program.

"We're feeding more than their bodies," Peggy says of the impact Kids Cafe has on the children.

She shares the story of one extended family with six children who come to Kids Cafe each week. The parents work two minimum wage jobs each and are really struggling to make ends meet. Peggy often sends the kids home with leftover food so their parents will have enough to eat, too. She says the whole family is so grateful for the Kids Cafe!

"They wouldn't be able to go to their jobs if their kids weren't able to come here," she says.

It's your gifts to the Regional Food Bank that enable agencies like Presbyterian Urban Mission to provide our community's hungry children with nutritious meals and snacks all year long. Thanks to you, these kids have the resources they need to stay full and focused at school. Thank you for feeding children in need!


Your Gifts Keep Kids Full and Focused!

His Kids

Alyson Geister can recognize the signs of a hungry child at first glance: he can't focus on his schoolwork. His energy is low, and he doesn't want to play with the other children. Most heart-breaking of all, he lacks the youthful joy that most children have.

"If I think about it too much, I start to cry," she says.

Alyson is the volunteer director of His Kids at Britton Christian Church, an after-school tutoring program for disadvantaged children in Oklahoma City. His Kids does more than just help these children with their studies twice a week. Before their lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the children receive a filling, nutritious meal through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma's Kids Cafe program – made possible by your gifts.

"We couldn't have a successful tutoring program if we didn't have a meal," says Alyson. "We couldn't do it without the Food Bank."

Alyson says all of the children enrolled in the program arrive hungry in the afternoons. Most are from single-parent families who can't always afford to keep their pantry shelves full. For many of these kids, the meal they receive through the Kids Cafe is the only meal they'll eat for the rest of the day.

"It makes a difference not just for the children, but for their families as well," says Alyson.

Because the His Kids program's primary focus is on helping the children with their schoolwork, Alyson stresses how important it is for them to receive a nutritious meal to help them concentrate. Over the course of the past school year, each of the children enrolled at His Kids saw a 30 percent improvement in his or her grades!

"It's huge for them to be able to eat first [before doing homework and tutoring]," she says.

It's your generosity and compassion for those in need that allows agencies like His Kids to provide nutritious meals for hungry children, keeping them full and focused throughout the school year. These children and those who serve them are so grateful for your support.

"The time you give back to a child never comes back empty," says Alyson. "I'm just so grateful!"


Thank You for helping Young People Achieve their Dreams

McKinley Park Boys and Girls Club

Gia's dad pours concrete and her mom is a full-time caregiver for her older brother, who is both mentally and physically disabled. Rising Gia and her brothers has been a challenge on the family's small income, and sometimes a trip to the grocery store just isn't in the budget. But thanks to your support, Gia can visit the new food pantry at her school when the food supply at home is especially low.

The Regional Food Bank's School Pantry Program started in 2011 and has grown to serve 42 middle and high schools in 10 counties across Oklahoma. Each week, chronically hungry kids are able to take home shelf-stable food including canned goods, fruit cups, cereal and Extra Helpings packaged meals. Gia always looks forward to the macaroni and cheese and fruit juice she receives.

"It really helps out a lot of people," she says of the program. "It makes it so people don't have to worry as much because they can put food at the table."

Gia says she wants to attend college because her parents didn't and she knows how hard it is for them to provide for her family. She hopes to participate in Oklahoma's Promise and attend either the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. Gia knows your support is helping to give her the fuel and focus she needs to achieve her goals, and she couldn't be more appreciative of your gifts.

"Thank you, because it really does help us," she says. "It's very kind to donate so kids have the food they need."


Kids are Ready to Learn Because of You!

Lesley & Rykeem

When a child is hungry, it's almost impossible for her to concentrate on anything but her empty stomach, much less her teacher's lessons.

At Telstar Elementary in Oklahoma City, staff member Candi Ahrens found many students were having a hard time paying attention in her computer class because they were so hungry. So three years ago, the school implemented the Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program to combat the problem of childhood hunger.

Food for Kids, a program which your gifts make possible, provides backpacks of healthy, kid-friendly food to chronically hungry elementary school children every weekend throughout the school year. Candi, the Food for Kids Coordinator at Telstar, says last year they served 115 children, all of whom were on the free and reduced-price school meal program and come from low-income families. Without school meals on the weekends, many of these children were coming to school on Monday mornings without having had a full meal since lunch on Friday.

"These little backpacks have a dramatic impact on the kids," she says. "If they're hungry in class, they can't concentrate."

Ten-year-old Rykeem and 6-year-old Lesley have been taking home backpacks through Food for Kids for two years. Their mother, Lucritia, says the food they receive has made a huge difference for their family.

"It helps a lot!" she says. "There's a lot of good food in the backpack – it's not junk food. A lot of it is stuff we can't afford to buy."

Lucritia adds that both Rykeem and Lesley have been able to concentrate better in class now that they have nutritious food to eat on the weekends.

"They look forward to it every week!" she says.

Candi says dozens of other families have been impacted by the Food for Kids program as well. Mrs. Faulkner, a Pre-K teacher at Telstar, says she often gets thank you notes from parents of students on the program.

You make it possible for Food for Kids to feed thousands of children just like Rykeem and Lesley across central and western Oklahoma. Because of you, these children will be able to start each school week ready to focus on their futures rather than their empty stomachs.


You're Providing Food for Kids

Fouts Family

When Tracy and Patrick moved with their five children to Edmond last year from their home in Florida, they hoped Oklahoma's job market would help provide better opportunities for their family.

But things haven't turned out exactly as they'd hoped. Although Patrick works full-time, his income isn't nearly enough to provide for a family of seven. With such a limited income, it's become a huge challenge to pay for things like rent and utility bills each month, much less groceries. The family doesn't receive food stamps, so big trips to the grocery store are a rarity.

That's why Tracy is so grateful for the Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program at her children's school, Orvis Risner Elementary. Through this special program, her three oldest kids can take home backpacks full of nutritious, kid-friendly food each Friday to last through the weekend.

Tracy's kids participate in the free school meal program, but she says it's a huge help to have extra food for the weekend when they don't have access to these meals.

"I don't need to worry about snacks – it helps a ton," she says. "The kids get so excited when they get [their backpacks]!"

Tami Fields, a social worker at Orvis Risner Elementary who helps operate the Food for Kids program says it's made a tremendous difference in students' behavior and overall well-being.

"On Monday, they're not so exhausted [anymore]. When you're hungry, you feel tired," she says. "I've just seen it being really successful."

It's your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma that make it possible for children at Orvis Risner Elementary and 264 other schools throughout central and western Oklahoma to take home backpacks of nutritious food to last through the weekend. Thanks to you, these kids have access to the food they need to keep from going hungry.

"Thank you!" says Tracy. "It's a big help...if I met you face-to-face...I'd give you a big hug!"


You're Providing Food for Kids

Fouts Family

When Tracy and Patrick moved with their five children to Edmond last year from their home in Florida, they hoped Oklahoma's job market would help provide better opportunities for their family.

But things haven't turned out exactly as they'd hoped. Although Patrick works full-time, his income isn't nearly enough to provide for a family of seven. With such a limited income, it's become a huge challenge to pay for things like rent and utility bills each month, much less groceries. The family doesn't receive food stamps, so big trips to the grocery store are a rarity.

That's why Tracy is so grateful for the Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program at her children's school, Orvis Risner Elementary. Through this special program, her three oldest kids can take home backpacks full of nutritious, kid-friendly food each Friday to last through the weekend.

Tracy's kids participate in the free school meal program, but she says it's a huge help to have extra food for the weekend when they don't have access to these meals.

"I don't need to worry about snacks – it helps a ton," she says. "The kids get so excited when they get [their backpacks]!"

Tami Fields, a social worker at Orvis Risner Elementary who helps operate the Food for Kids program says it's made a tremendous difference in students' behavior and overall well-being.

"On Monday, they're not so exhausted [anymore]. When you're hungry, you feel tired," she says. "I've just seen it being really successful."

It's your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma that make it possible for children at Orvis Risner Elementary and 264 other schools throughout central and western Oklahoma to take home backpacks of nutritious food to last through the weekend. Thanks to you, these kids have access to the food they need to keep from going hungry.

"Thank you!" says Tracy. "It's a big help...if I met you face-to-face...I'd give you a big hug!"


Children are Full and Focused Thanks to You

Fouts Family

Amber is a single mom who's doing her very best to care for her family. She and her children now live with her mother to help make ends meet. Altogether, there are 10 people under one small roof.

Amber loves her children more than anything. But lately it's been nearly impossible for her to provide for them like she wishes she could. With so many mouths to feed, it's all Amber can do to keep enough food in the house for everyone. That's why she's so grateful that her two oldest children can participate in the Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program at their school, Prairie Queen Elementary School in Oklahoma City. Amber says it's a huge relief to know her kids can bring home backpacks full of healthy, kid-friendly food each Friday – which they always share with their siblings. "The end of the month is always hard," she says. "This helps a lot!"

Kathren Stehno, who helps distribute the Food for Kids backpacks each Friday, says the program has made a huge difference in the lives of the students at Prairie Queen Elementary. Last school year 20 children – all of whom participated in the school's free or reduced-price meal program – took home backpacks full of food each weekend.

"They come to me and ask, 'Are we going to get a backpack this week?'" says Kathren. "For some of our students, [this food] is critical." She adds that since many of these students come from families with parents who struggle to provide for their basic needs, the Food for Kids program teaches them how to be responsible, because they have to remember to bring their backpacks back to school each Monday. It also helps them to trust others because they have this food to count on each Friday.

"Even though part of their life is unstable, this backpack is a stable thing for them," says Kathren. "It brings them a sense of responsibility." It's your gifts to the Regional Food Bank that enable schools like Prairie Queen Elementary to provide chronically hungry children with backpacks of nutritious food each weekend through Food for Kids. Thanks to you, these children will be able to stay full and focused so they can succeed in the classroom this year.

"I just want to thank you so much for your support!" says Kathren. "It makes me feel so good to provide academically and physically for the students – and you're helping us do that."


You Give Kids the Fuel to Learn

Fouts Family

Jerry Michael is seven years old and just started the second grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Seminole, Oklahoma. His favorite subject is spelling – and he's pretty good at it, too.

But when Jerry Michael doesn't get enough to eat, it's hard for him to concentrate on spelling – or any subject, for that matter. His parents work hourly jobs, and their incomes just aren't enough to provide for him and his three siblings all the time. More often than not, there isn't enough food to go around for all six of them.

Fortunately, your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma make it possible for Jerry Michael – and his brothers – to participate in the Food for Kids program at Woodrow Wilson. This special program provides chronically hungry children just like Jerry Michael with backpacks full of nutritious food to last through the weekend.

"I just eat a little bit every day," says Jerry Michael. He quickly adds that he shares some of the backpack's contents with his whole family so that everyone gets enough to eat. Deb Stacy, who distributes the Food for Kids backpacks at Woodrow Wilson each Friday, says there is an enormous need in Seminole. The town has a very high unemployment rate, so many kids' parents are simply unable to provide for them like they wish they could. She says nearly 80 percent of students participate in the school's free or reduced-price meal program. Without Food for Kids, many of these children would actually go hungry.

"I've seen kids almost lick their plates [in the cafeteria]," she says.

It's your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma that make it possible for schools like Woodrow Wilson Elementary to provide chronically hungry kids with backpacks full of nutritious food each weekend. These children and those who serve them are so grateful for your compassion and generosity.

"Thank you – we appreciate you!" says Deb.




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