There are hundreds of local kids who leave school every week not knowing if they'll have anything to eat over the weekend. A local program is trying to change that. Fifteen elementary schools in Bryan and six in College Station have adopted the Backpack program. Each Friday the child is sent home with a backpack full of food.
There are many faces of hunger.
“It could look as simple as someone not being happy when they come in to school in the morning or eating quickly at lunch and being very protective of not only their food but making sure other children don't waste their food,” said College Hills Elementary School Assistant Principal Robyn Jones.
As an administrator at College Hills Elementary, Robyn Jones says the need continues to grow district-wide, but teachers and staff are vigilant to ensure the signs of hunger never go unnoticed.
"If we have a child that's struggling in the classroom in any way, academically, behaviorally then we look at many factors as to why that could be the case and we start working on why those factors may be,” Jones said.
This year 14,000 elementary-aged children will receive lunch assistance at school. The demand gets bigger each year, but the Brazos Valley Food Bank is partnering with 26 school districts across six counties to distribute backpacks filled with food.
“This is a cereal bowl they can just peel the lid off and add milk to,” explained Shannon Avila, Brazos Valley Food Bank Program Director.
The concept is simple: backpacks are discretely distributed to children at risk of weekend hunger; and every Friday they receive a bag of food that's child-friendly, nutritious, nonperishable, and easy to prepare.
Avila says last year 28,000 backpacks helped feed a little more than 1100 children last year.
"Frequently these are children who receive free or reduced lunches at school during the week and during the weekend they may not have food to eat at their house,” said Avila.
It's an initiative that is helping to take the focus away from hunger and place it back into the classroom -- where it belongs.
“We know that the brain needs fuel to learn and we know that if it's not fed and hydrated then optimal learning doesn't take place,” said Jones.
The backpack program has been in effect here locally since 2007. Bowen Elementary in Bryan was added to the Backpack program this year. Schools in Burleson, Grimes, Madison and Washington counties are also part of the Backpack program.