Former Putnam City West Coach Reflects Back On Pantry Program
OKLAHOMA CITY - Hunger doesn't stop in elementary school. Sadly, for some, it continues into high school and even college. However, one Oklahoma High School football coach saw the need back in 2011 and did something about it.
The food pantry at Putnam City West High School is open to any student who needs it, but it wasn't always that way.
"I realized our kids weren't getting bigger, faster, stronger," said Coach John Jensen about his football players back in 2011.
We interviewed him back then because of a startling realization he had about his team. Friday, we visited him, and he recalled what he saw then.
"We had noticed a large number of broken bones and injuries that shouldn't be happening in football," he said.
He said the issue stemmed from a lack of nourishment in some of his players.
"With the meal school program, you eat breakfast and lunch, but you don't get dinner, and when you go home there's nothing on the weekends," Jensen said.
So, along with other coaches and staff he started a small food pantry in the helmet room.
"It just became normal and they just started picking up cans of food for the weekend then asking, 'could I get some for my little brother, you know, I've got four siblings, how much can I take,'" he remembers.
That's when he realized the problem wasn't just among his players, so he teamed up with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma for help. Now, it's one of about 180 high school food pantries across the state to help feed any student in need.
"It' is tied to academics," Jensen said. "You know, their brains are functioning and growing and if they're not being nourished, they're not going to be able to compete in the classroom either."
It's Coach Jensen and his staff's efforts that helped start the Regional Food Bank's school pantry program back in 2012. Today, the program feeds more than 7,200 students and their families each year.
For more information on how you can volunteer or donate, go to https://www.regionalfoodbank.org/ or you can also text FFK to 501501 to give $10 to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.