"Demand always outpaces the supply.” If Dawn Burroughs were talking about a business, her quote might indicate a thriving venture. Instead she’s a Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma spokeswoman. Her quote refers to the Food 4 Kids program, which provides chronically hungry elementary school students and their siblings not yet in school with healthy, "kid-friendly” meals during the weekends throughout the school year. They pick up the backpacks with food on Fridays and return them on Mondays. The program has expanded from 263 schools at the end of last year to 304 schools now. There are 14 schools on the waiting list, which supports Burroughs’ statement. "Without a doubt, the change in the economy and the resulting job losses have caused the numbers to go up,” she said. "We believe that, as more and more school administrators and communities become aware of the program, the numbers will also continue to rise.” Then Burroughs provides examples from various coordinators about what the program means in their schools. A coordinator in Cleveland County told of a family with three children. The father had just lost his job and the mother was disabled and couldn’t work. In a Grady County family, also with three children, both parents lost jobs in the same week. And a coordinator in Oklahoma County said, "One of our first-grade students whose mom lost her job told me she really likes the food because ‘it kept her tummy happy.’” The program is providing food to about 8,000 students in 42 counties and the number of students continues to increase. "We began utilizing a conveyor system in order to increase the number of food sacks we can assemble without having to increase the number of volunteers,” Burroughs said. "We’ve also made changes to our training process, the way food is ordered and the way information is managed.” Transportation is also a big issue in terms of supplying the food to schools, Burroughs said. In addition to delivering food throughout the metro area, the Regional Food Bank makes 63 rural deliveries a month. The food bank has a five-year plan to offer the program to any school in its service area that has a chronically hungry child. Burroughs said the size of the program will grow by another 50 to 60 percent in the next five years. Each school makes a determination to begin the program since it is always on a voluntary basis. What will it take to help meet the demand? Burroughs said $200 will provide one chronically hungry child with food every weekend and holiday throughout an entire school year. "So much hope for so little money,” she said.Comments
informationFor more information about the Regional Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids program, call 972-1111 or go to www.regionalfoodbank.org.