Food Bank Hopes To Spread Backpack Program To More Middle, High Schools

Wednesday, October 2nd 2013, 9:42 pm
By: News On 6

School is in full swing across eastern Oklahoma, but its hard to learn on an empty stomach.

For that reason, the Community Food Bank's backpack program is expanding to help even more children.

When it comes to kids, Willene Samilton speaks from experience. Lots of experience.

"I've been in Tulsa Public Schools for 52 years," Samilton said.

She has served as a dean, counselor and parent facilitator.

Now, she has landed at Edison, as a counselor for both middle school and high school students. And compared to 1961, Willene sees a whole different world.

"Our families have changed," Samilton said. "We have a lot of grandparents who are raising children nowadays. A lot of parents are incarcerated."

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Last year, Edison became one of the first schools in Tulsa County to expand the backpack program in the middle school.

Samilton was concerned the older children may be a little embarrassed to receive supplemental food for the weekend. She was wrong.

"I was really amazed at the fact that they were so happy to get the bag," she said.

They were happy and grateful. Just thinking about it brought this educator of 52 years, to tears.

"It's heartbreaking," Samilton said. "I see it every day."

"Just because they move on to middle or high school, doesn't mean anything changes with their family circumstances," said Eileen Bradshaw, Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. "If anything, middle school and high school children are hungry all the time."

Bradshaw is delighted to see the backpack program grow. Last year, almost 5,000 children were served every week in Tulsa County alone.

And Bradshaw has high hopes that this year, kids in middle and high schools will share in the bounty.

"We already have volunteers and staff who are reaching out to the schools, saying, 'We're here when you're ready. we want to get the food in your hands,'" she said.

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