Terry Hood, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The new school year is well under way, but a key program to make it a success is just getting started. It's the eastern Oklahoma Community Food Bank's Backpacks For Kids program.
News On 6 paid a visit to the new Chouteau Elementary School to see how things are coming along.
A lot of things have changed at Chouteau Elementary School; the building, the number of students, the counselor and many teachers. But one stark reality remains, many of the children come to school hungry.
"We have a student body of 450, and I have gotten about 45 referrals so far. So we're looking at about 10 percent of our kids," said Charleen McCracken, Social Services Coordinator.
Ten percent who all too often, go home to empty cupboards. The backpack program helps these kids get through the weekends with a supplemental food supply.
"I have seen this program make an actual impact on the lives of kids and their families,"
McCracken is new to Chouteau, but she's has worked with the backpack program for 6 years.
"I would say, I have noticed an increase in the last two years. Families who are working, both parents work. They may have 3 or 4 children, and they're just struggling to make ends meet," she said.
When kids come to school hungry, it affects every aspect of their day. Time and again, teachers and counselors say they see problems with school work, with attitude and with behavior.
"I just had a little one in my office this morning who rubbed his little tummy and said, ‘I'm hungry.' And he was in my office because he hadn't been focusing and been doing what he needed to do," McCracken said.
McCracken believes that simply providing a basic need, food, can open new pathways for children. It can help clear the way for their education, and perhaps break a cycle of poverty. It all begins with a simple backpack.
"This program impacts in such a basic, amazing way. I don't know how you can possibly question giving food to a child," McCracken said. "It's a great program and it has been a blessing to us."