Hearne food banks, school district describe big need to feed hungry families

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 3:44 AM CST
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HEARNE, Texas (KBTX) - There’s a big need to feed hungry families in Hearne, but it’s not just the food banks that are saying that. It’s the school district as well.

Call for Help in Hearne is open every Monday afternoon, providing hungry families with the nutritious food they need. But as life gradually returns to normal in the face of a pandemic, the number of people needing help is on the rise.

”It slowed down quite a bit during the pandemic, but we’re picking back up to normal,” Call for Help Food Director Mark Hart said. “We probably serve 25-30 families every time.”

Hart says they’re ready to meet that need. The 10-pound food bags they hand out contain rice, beans, canned goods, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, and frozen meat, among other items.

”We’re doing more in the last couple years then we were when I started this, so we’re giving out a lot more food,” Hart said. “I stuff these bags with as much as I can get in there.”

Joann Rains is a Hearne resident who is comes to Call for Help frequently.

“With the economy the way it is, it’s hard to buy food,” Rains said.

She says she thanks God every day for what the organization does for her and the community. Rains says she doesn’t know where she would go for food without them, and they provide her with much more than just something to eat.

”They’re here for me, and not just for the food and the clothes, but I got someone that listens to me, gives me advice,” Rains said. “I’m grateful.”

Rhonda Cloud is the child nutrition director at Hearne ISD. She knows as well as anyone how important it is for students to be properly fed and avoid hunger throughout the day.

“It’s very important. There’s actually been a study that if a child is hungry, their grades are usually lower, and behavior is not the best either,” Cloud said. “They need to have a full belly so they can focus, study, and do their best.”

Cloud says the food need is so great for some of the students and their families that they send home a backpack filled with food every Friday. It’s called a Backpack Buddy that’s part of the district’s Century 21 Program, which is supported by the Brazos Valley Food Bank.

”Some kids may not have meals after they leave here on Fridays,” Cloud said. “Some have said they may not get to eat until they come back to school on Monday morning. That’s just heartbreaking, so this really helps. It has enough food in there for the weekend, and it’s shelf stable.”

The district is only required to serve their students breakfast and lunch on school days, Cloud says, but they’re also able to give kids after-school snacks through the Century 21 Program. Another great aspect of the program is how accessible it is to those who need it.

“If a parent doesn’t feel the need to sign up and a teacher sees that the child needs it, the teacher can sign them up. Then we can send a backpack home with them on Friday. Then the child will have it in their backpack and they’ll know,” Cloud said. “Nothing breaks your heart more whenever they’re coming to get a bag, and they’re like ‘Can I have two or three for my brother or my mom?’ It just breaks your heart, so you know if mom and brother are hungry, they’re hungry too.

Call for Help says KBTX’s Food for Families food drive supports them through roughly half of the entire year, and that’s made possible by donations from community members. Hart says beans and rice go the furthest for their clients, while Cloud says pre-packaged fruits and cereals are the favorites among students.

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