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When Hunger Ends, Learning Begins

Food for Kids Program Nourishes Hungry Oklahoma City Students

July 31, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY – One in four children in Oklahoma will struggle with hunger today.  However, thanks to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Food for Kids Programs, Oklahoma City students will receive hope, in the form of food, this school year.  Through September 30th, thanks to the generosity of Trusted Choice — Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, Top of the World, and an anonymous family donor, all tax-deductible donations made to Food for Kids will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

“This matching challenge couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank. “A $200 gift will support a child in Food for Kids for an entire school year.  Children are heading back to school, and we need your help to make sure their basic need for food is met.  Make a donation to Food for Kids today and make a difference in your community.”

Last school year, the Regional Food Bank provided enough food to feed more than 15,000 children every week through Food for Kids childhood hunger programs: the Backpack Program, Kids Cafe, Summer Feeding, and School Pantries.  In Oklahoma City, an average of 2,982 children were served each week through Food for Kids.

Through the Backpack Program, children receive a backpack full of kid-friendly, non-perishable and nutritious food on Friday to sustain them over weekends and school holidays.  The Regional Food Bank launched the program in 2003 after learning about an elementary student who fainted while waiting in the school breakfast line on a Monday morning because he had very little food to eat over the weekend.

In Fiscal Year 2012, more than 13,500 students in 475 schools participated in the Backpack Program.  The Backpack Program added 101 new schools this past year and brought 1,950 additional children into the program.  Last year in Oklahoma City 78 schools participated in the program.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Regional Food Bank:

  • 89 percent of Backpack Program coordinators replied the program was “very effective” at meeting the needs of chronically hungry elementary students.
  • 90 percent of Backpack Program coordinators observed fewer complaints about hunger by children who participated in the program.
  • 89 percent of Backpack Program coordinators observed fewer signs of chronic hunger when students returned on Monday morning.
  • 84 percent of Backpack Program coordinators observed children paying better attention in class once they had joined the program.
  • 81 percent of Backpack Program coordinators observed an improvement in children’s academic performance as a result of the program.

“We have a student in third grade that shows up frequently with an inability to concentrate,” said a Backpack Program coordinator recently.  “He complained to his teacher that he was hungry. When he is given a little food, he shows a remarkably improved ability to stay alert and attentive for the reading class.  The lack of food was negatively impacting his performance and adding him to the backpack program has made a difference in his whole performance as a student.”

The Regional Food Bank started the Food for Kids School Pantry Program in 2010 at Putnam City West High School and Western Heights Middle School.  This program provides chronically hungry middle and high school students, who are identified by school personnel, with food to sustain them after school and over the weekends.  The School Pantry Program ended last school year serving 42 middle and high schools in 13 counties and expects that number to more than double, pending funding.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, the program served more than 1,500 students and distributed 102,134 pounds of food to chronically hungry students. Last year, 10 Oklahoma City schools served 728 students through this program.

According to a recent survey of School Pantry coordinators:

  • 97 percent of coordinators said that the School Pantry Program was “very effective” or “somewhat effective” at meeting the needs of chronically hungry middle and high school students.
  • 96 percent observed fewer complaints about hunger by students who participated in the program.
  • 93 percent observed students showing less hunger when they arrived at school on Monday mornings.

“One boy told us last week that he was going to drop out of school to get a job in order to help feed his family,” shared a School Pantry Coordinator recently. “When he heard about the food pantry in October, he decided to stay in school. He graduated in May.” 

Kids Cafe, an afterschool and summer program, provides food, mentoring, tutoring, and a variety of other activities to approximately 1,000 at-risk children at 19 sites in central and western Oklahoma. The first Kids Cafe program sponsored by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma opened in 1994 at the Regional Food Bank's partner agency, The Urban Mission. There are 10 Kids Cafe sites in Oklahoma City.

The Regional Food Bank is dedicated to its mission of “Fighting Hunger…Feeding Hope.”  The nonprofit plans on expanding its Food for Kids Programs to reach every chronically hungry child in central and western Oklahoma.  

Established in 1980, the Regional Food Bank is the largest private hunger-relief organization in the state of Oklahoma. In Fiscal Year 2012, the nonprofit distributed 42.2 million pounds of food and products through a network of nearly 1,000 charitable feeding programs and schools in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Each week, the organization provides enough food to feed more than 90,000 hungry Oklahomans.

To make a tax-deductible donation to Food for Kids, or for more information about the program, visit regionalfoodbank.org or call Lisa Perry at 405.604.7107.  Connect online with the Regional Food Bank at twitter.com/rfbo or facebook.com/regionalfoodbank.

Download photos of students from the Regional Food Bank’s Flickr account.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is a private, 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that acts as a link through which the food industry and community may donate food and other goods. The products are then distributed to nearly 1,000 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. In fiscal year 2012, the Food Bank distributed 42.2 million pounds of food and product to help the charitable community effectively feed people in need. Since its inception in 1980, the Food Bank has distributed more than 446 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.

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