Terry Hood, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma – Summer is here, but with the freedom of summer comes another worry for many families: feeding their children.
The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma helps thousands of families put food on the table and they have special programs to cover the needs of children.
Some four year olds are getting a jump start on their ABCs and in some cases, keeping a full stomach, too. Of the 688 children enrolled at Cooper Elementary School, 72 of them are in the supplemental food program called Backpacks for Kids.
Every Friday, the children take home something extra to get them through the weekend. The food varies from week to week, but it all meets the nutritional requirements of Tulsa Public Schools.
It's not a lot; just ten food items, but there are dozens of children here who count the days until they get them.
"It's sad, like I said, for kids it's like Christmas on Friday. I get all of this! And its really not that much, but to them, it's a lot," James Rendfeld, a teacher, said.
"They'll stop us in the hallway and say, ‘is it Friday yet?' said Rita Kukura said. "And then they'll say, I'm really hungry, is the food going to be here today?"
Rita Kukura has been a counselor at Cooper for 7 years. Since the backpack program started four years ago, she's seen real changes in the children. Better attendance, better grades, kids who are more alert, happier, but there's a waiting list to get on the program at Cooper and it breaks her heart.
"It's horrible. I don't like to think about the ice storm when we were out, what did they do?" Rendfeld said.
That worry skyrockets this time of year. Thursday is the last distribution day for most Tulsa Public Schools. Rita Kukura wonders how many children will be going to home to empty cupboards.
"I am concerned," she said. "Because hunger doesn't stop when school's out; hunger is always there."
The Community Food Bank does have a summer program for children, although it will only reach about a third of the kids who are now on the backpack program.
Churches and schools that have signed up for the summer program include:
Union Public Schools
Tulsa Public Schools