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Food for Kids Breaks Holiday Hunger

Oklahoma Children Receive Extra Food Over School Break

November 16, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY - Thanks to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Food for Kids Program, chronically hungry elementary school children on the Backpack Program will receive extra food to sustain them over the long Thanksgiving weekend. 

“One in four children in Oklahoma will struggle with hunger today,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank. “This should not be happening in our state, but it is.  A child should never have to worry about whether they will have anything to eat tomorrow.”

Through the Regional Food Bank’s Food for Kids Backpack Program, elementary school students receive healthy, kid-friendly meals over the weekends throughout the school year.  Before receiving help from the program, many of these children had very little or nothing to eat between school lunch on Friday and school breakfast on Monday.

The Backpack Program started in 2003 when a student passed out in the lunch line on Monday afternoon - all he ate over the weekend was a hot dog without a bun.  In nine years, the program has grown to assist more and more children.  Last school year, the program served more than 10,000 chronically hungry children in 374 schools in 49 central and western counties. 

Children from food insecure households are more likely than their food secure peers to experience higher rates of various forms of educational problems.  They are at least 50 percent more likely to miss days of school (1.6 times), nearly twice as likely to be suspended (1.95 times), and almost 50 percent more likely to have to repeat a grade (1.44 times).

“We have several students whose parents have lost jobs or are between jobs due to the current economic situation,” said one Backpack Program coordinator.  “The bag of food has become more than just a bag . . . it has become a symbol of hope and comfort.  These students look forward to the food being sent home each week, and I can tell that they rely on it very much.”

Numerous teachers and administrators have reported that students’ school performance, attendance, and self-esteem have improved as a result of participating in the program. 

According to a recent survey of Backpack Program Coordinators:

  • 92.3 percent saw fewer complaints about hunger by children who participated in the Backpack Program.
  • 90.7 percent observed fewer signs of chronic hunger when students returned on Monday morning
  • 80.3 percent said they had seen children pay better attention in class once they joined the program.
  • 74.9 percent observed an improvement in children’s academic performance as a result of the Backpack Program.
  • 73.2 percent witnessed an improvement in children’s school attendance.

“We have a first grader who has been receiving a backpack all year,” said another coordinator.  “He has made academic progress, has been more attentive in class, and has not been sick as much as in previous years.”

The Regional Food Bank is dedicated to “Fighting Hunger…Feeding Hope.”  The organization plans on expanding the program until it is available in every elementary school in its 53 central and western Oklahoma county service area. 

Established in 1980, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the largest private hunger-relief organization in the state of Oklahoma. In Fiscal Year 2011, the Food Bank distributed 46.2 million pounds of food and products through a network of more than 825 charitable feeding programs and elementary schools in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Each week, the organization provides enough food to feed more than 90,000 hungry Oklahomans.

For $200 the Regional Food Bank can provide one child with a backpack of food every weekend for the entire school year.  To make a tax-deductible donation to the Regional Food Bank’s Backpack Program, or for more information about the program, visit regionalfoodbank.org or call Lisa Perry at 405.604.7107, text the word “CAN” to 27722 (data and message rates may apply) or visit regionalfoodbank.org.  Connect online with the Regional Food Bank at twitter.com/rfbo or facebook.com/regionalfoodbank.

Download photos and videos of the Backpack Program: http://packtiltheyreback.org/images.html

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is a private, 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that acts as a link through which the food industry and community may donate food and other goods. The products are then distributed to nearly 825 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. In fiscal year 2011, the Food Bank distributed 46.2 million pounds of food and product to help the charitable community effectively feed people in need. Since its inception in 1980, the Food Bank has distributed more than 418 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry. Visit regionalfoodbank.org or scan the QR code below to learn more.

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