Due to the pandemic many children in our state are now distance learning and that can put a big strain on parents in a number of ways. But some groups, like the Urban League, have stepped up with the help of the Regional Food Bank.
About 120 students are distance learning, not at home, but at the Urban League of Oklahoma City.
“A lot of the parents can’t stay home because they’re essential,” explained Dee Liggens, the Urban League’s School Age Program Coordinator. “We also have grandparents who have that learning curve, they’re not tecno-savvy.”
When schools decided to put learning online the Urban league opened its doors. The kids have supervision, internet access, tutoring, and thanks to the Regional Food Bank two meals a day.
“Just calling and saying, ‘Ryan I need’ and…he always says yes,” said Liggens. She’s referring to Ryan Abernathy, the Director for Childhood Hunger for the Regional Food Bank.
The Food Bank is currently providing food for 40 similar programs. They serve thousands of meals a day.
“We had to find ways to get food to children that were either gathering in virtual learning environments or that their parents were able to pick up,” said Abernathy.
The kids at the Urban League are from all over the metro and Liggens said about 60% of them are from families that she didn't see before the pandemic.
“I have a kindergartener that pats me on the leg when they get here at 7:30 and they simply say, ‘I’m hungry,’” recalled Liggens.
Ryan said they are seeing more hungry kids too. They had a record number of kids participating in the summer feeding program and they anticipate the need continuing to rise this fall.
New estimates in Oklahoma show the number of kids who are food insecure will go from one in four to one in three.
“It’s a challenge we’re going to embrace and be ready to address before it gets to the point where it’s hurting kids,” said Abernathy.