Food is the most essential school supply. In fact, in Oklahoma, one in four children lives with hunger. But through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma's Food for Kids program, they are getting the food they need.
Each week a child on the backpack program takes home this backpack full of food for the weekend. One of the items inside, a protein stick, thanks to future Oklahoma farmers.
"The last line of the FFA motto is living to serve," said Yukon senior and FFA member Tanner Stevens.
Stevens and sophomore Liberty Carson are doing that each day when they step into the FFA barn in Yukon.
"Part of it is just like having the passion for animals and wanting them to be better and seeing them from start to finish," said Carson.
These future farmers raise pigs.
"With food you start with higher protein and then work your way down and then just walking and exercising and then brushing taking care of their skin," said Carson.
"The whole process takes about six months from when they're born," said Stevens. "And we'll feed them out and kind of teach them how to walk and make them show pigs."
But for Carson and Stevens, it's more than just show. It's about feeding other kids in need.
They don't have to do that you know the animals have some value, they could sell them, but they chose to be good citizens and help out those in need," said David VonTungeln, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
Last year, FFA students across the state donated 600 animals to the protein sticks program, which produced more than one million sticks.
The Protein Stick program is in its fifth year and is part of a partnership among the Regional Food Bank, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Future Farmers of America (FFA), the Oklahoma Beef Council, Oklahoma Pork Council and Oklahoma State University. The program is also an important part of the Oklahoma FFA Hunger Challenge Campaign.
"I just love that I can help others and be a huge influence on somebody else's life," said Carson.
The sticks are donated to the Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program and placed inside backpacks with other food for the kids to take home each week.
"It's hard to part with them but at the end of the day when you know who they're going to and what kind of a cause it's helping, it's really worth it," said Stevens.
Most of the animals donated are swine. A 280-pound pig will produce approximately 1,600 protein sticks.
It now costs just $100 to provide a kid a backpack for a whole year during the weekends and holidays. There's even a matching campaign going on, so your donation can provide two kids a backpack for a year.
News 9 has a booth set up at the fairgrounds where we'll be collecting money during the fair. Or you can text FFK to 501501 for a $10. For more information on the Food for Kids Program, click here: https://www.regionalfoodbank.org/programs/food-for-kids