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Food for Kids Program hopes to end Oklahoma students' hunger

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma's Food for Kids Program continues to expand with new schools being added each semester. The program provides kid-friendly, nonperishable and nutritious food on Fridays to sustain students over weekends and school holiday.
by Bryan Painter Published: January 12, 2013

That there was enough food for two brothers is something that broke Erika Fierro's heart but also warmed it.

It troubled her that the need was there, but she was thankful the need could be met.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma supplies and delivers pre-assembled food sacks and backpacks to participating schools at no cost to the school.

On Fridays, school coordinators place the bags into the students' backpacks. Teachers and school personnel identify chronically hungry students and enroll them in the Food for Kids Backpack Program.

Fierro is the Food for Kids Program coordinator at Heronville Elementary, 1240 SW 29 in Oklahoma City.

Earlier this school year, a fourth-grader was referred to Fierro for the program. After receiving his referral form, she discovered he had a brother in the second grade.

“For a couple of weeks the fourth-grader took snacks enough for both of them until more backpacks arrived,” Fierro said, “and when I received the backpack order I was able to give the second-grader his own backpack. When I called him to pick it up, he was so excited. ‘My own backpack. Thank you so much. I will make sure and bring it back every week so on Friday you can give me more snacks.' It really touched me and made me super happy at how grateful and excited this little second-grader was.”

Hunger is a year-round issue for many Oklahomans, especially children. One in four children in Oklahoma may be going to bed hungry, according to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The Food for Kids Backpack Program strives to alleviate the pangs of hunger that chronically hungry children experience.

Through the program, children receive a backpack full of kid-friendly, nonperishable and nutritious food on Friday to sustain them over weekends and school holidays.

After joining the program, most children pay better attention in class and improve their academic performance, said Angie Gaines, spokeswoman for the Regional Food Bank.

Last school year, the program served more than 13,500 chronically hungry elementary students in 475 schools in central and western Oklahoma.

They expect that number to continue to grow as this school year continues and more schools are added to the program.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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