Terrance is an active third grader who loves his P.E. class. He is also one out of every four Oklahoma children who lives in a home that struggles to put food on the table. He said if he didn’t receive a backpack from the Food for Kids Backpack Program each week, he would not have any food to eat over the weekend.
“We are very poor,” Terrance said. “I’m just really hungry all the time.”
This lifesaving program was born in 2003 after a student passed out while waiting in the school breakfast line. He had eaten just one hotdog over the entire weekend. As a result, children who are identified as food insecure receive a backpack full of kid-friendly, nonperishable and nutritious food items on Fridays to hold them over on weekends and school holidays. Pre-assembled food sacks and backpacks are delivered to participating schools at no cost to the school or the child. Children who often have to go without food are susceptible to behavioral and psychosocial effects such as aggression, anxiety and poor social skills. The Regional Food Bank understands food is the most essential school supply because hungry children cannot learn.
Last year, there was a dramatic increase in the need for food assistance. The Backpack Program saved 19,051 chronically hungry elementary school students attending 481 schools.
“It’s really thoughtful that people give money for the backpacks. It helps a lot to have that food because we’re always starving,” Terrance said.
A $100 donation provides meals for two children for an entire year in a Food for Kids program. More than 37 percent of the Regional Food Bank’s emergency food recipients are children.