As the elementary students on the Food for Kids backpack program move on to middle school and high school, more often than not, they still face hunger issues. That's why the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma now offers school pantries.
Kathy Hale at Putnam City West High School is passionate about her school's Patriot Pantry.
"I love keeping it straight. I love keeping everything ready for the students to come in and be able to get what they need," said Hale.
The school started the pantry a few years ago as part of a pilot program created by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
"We were getting calls from principals and coaches and teachers saying these kids that were on your backpack program are now in middle and high school and they still need food," said Rodney Bivens, the executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
Bivens said it didn't take long to see the need.
"One child in one of the high schools was actually dropping out. He was a junior in high school and was dropping out to help get a job to feed his family," Bivens recalled. "He said because of the school pantry, he was able to stay in school and graduate."
Today, the food bank provides food to 124 middle schools and high schools, serving 4,800 Oklahoma children and their families. Thirty of those families are served through the pantry at Putnam City West once a month.
"I know that it is helping them because they come back and they tell us and the parents also calls us and I've gotten some notes from parents saying how much they appreciate the help," said Hale.
The regional food bank stocks the school pantries once to twice a month. Some schools help contribute by holding additional food drives.?