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When Hunger Ends Learning Begins

Food for Kids Backpack Program Nourishes Oklahoma Students

August 4, 2011

Nearly one in five children in Oklahoma will struggle with hunger today.  However, thanks to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Food for Kids Backpack Program, Oklahoma County elementary school students will be able to receive healthy, kid-friendly meals over the weekends throughout the school year.  Through September 30th, thanks to the generosity of Top of the World, Trusted Choice-Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, Harris Foundation-OKC, and one anonymous donor, all tax-deductible donations made to the Food for Kids Backpack Program will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

“This matching challenge couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank. “A $200 donation supplies one child with a backpack full of food every weekend for an entire school year.  Children are heading back to school, and we need your help to make sure their basic need for food is met.  Make a donation to The Backpack Program today and make a difference in your community.”

Last school year, 3,635 Oklahoma County students in 80 schools participated in the program.  The Regional Food Bank estimates that 639 children in Oklahoma County could still benefit from this program.

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 11,500 chronically hungry children in 374 schools in 49 central and western counties.  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.

Kathren Stehno, who helps distribute the 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 free or reduced-price school meal program – took home backpacks full of food each weekend.

“I definitely have seen a difference in students that have consistently received these backpacks and their attitudes towards schools,” said Stehno.  “Students who receive this bag benefit from having food for the weekend, but – more than that – they benefit from the hope it gives them.”

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.

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.  The Regional Food Bank estimates that 3,426 children could still benefit from this program statewide in central and western Oklahoma.

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.

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.

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 more than 825 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. In the last fiscal year, the Regional 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 Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 400 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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