Sitting on my desk is a coaster with a picture of two children playing, and above the picture it reads: “Because kids have better things to think about than hunger.” What a great daily reminder of why I do what I do here at the Food Bank. As a new AmeriCorps Member serving in the position of Programs Outreach Coordinator at the Regional Food Bank, I have the opportunity to work closely with two of our Childhood Hunger programs – the Kids Café program and the Backpack Program.  Each of these programs is designed to provide nutritious food to children who might otherwise go without an evening or weekend meal.

True hunger is a concept to which I was virtually oblivious to as a child. I am sure there were times it was not easy for my parents to make ends meet, but not having enough food to eat was never even a thought that crossed my mind. I had some awareness (thanks to occasional missionary slideshows at church) that there were hungry children far away in some other part of the world, but in my own country – let alone my own school?  Not a chance.

Of course, throughout my young adult years, I have become more aware of issues that exist here at home, but I really had no concept of the magnitude of child hunger in our state before I began working at the Food Bank. The figures are staggering: over 240,000 of Oklahoma’s children (that’s one in four!) suffer from food insecurity – meaning they have inconsistent or inadequate access to nutritious food at home. The Backpack Program alone provides weekend meals to over 10,000 children each week throughout central and western Oklahoma – and the program is still expanding. That figure floors me: 10,000 plus children are at risk of going without food to eat each weekend in our service area alone!

I occasionally take time to read through some of the stories that school coordinators of the Backpack Program pass along to us, which is both heartbreaking and reaffirming simultaneously. The problems these children have to deal with are often so astronomical that a backpack full of snacks seems insignificant at best. However, reports of the joy and gratitude with which both children and parents receive this food remind me of the importance of what this program does – it eliminates one worry for these children, so that regardless of what other circumstances they face at home, at least there is security and peace of mind in knowing that this basic physical need is met. This frees children to focus more energy on learning, growing, exploring, and imagining, as elementary aged children should be able to do…because kids really do have better things to think about than hunger.

Erin Cox
AmeriCorps Member
Programs Outreach Coordinator

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