Teachers and administrators at Kilgore Middle School are introducing a program to feed hungry students.
Principal April Cox and ELA/ESL teacher Lucy Donham created the KMS Backpack Program to send nutritious food home with students who may not have enough to eat when they are away from campus.
“We’ve always provided some assistance at the elementary school but not really at the middle school,” Cox said. “But the need is still there. This was placed on the hearts of some of our teachers to fulfill that need.”
Cox said KISD serves 4,100 children from the early childhood programs through twelfth grade and 62 percent of those students are economically disadvantaged. While most students are able to get two nutritious meals per day while they are at school – breakfast and lunch – some of them have little or nothing to eat at home after school, on weekends or during school holidays, Cox said.
In an attempt to solve this problem, KMS has partnered with the East Texas Food Bank to provide food to children who receive free or reduced-price lunches at school but who may not get enough to eat at home.
KMS staff is asking for community support in the form of donations to the East Texas Food Bank to fund the program.
“People can do either online donations or direct checks,” Cox said. “You can sponsor a child for $162 for a year.”
On Friday afternoons, Cox said, students in the program will get packages of food to sustain them through the weekend. Students who do not have backpacks to take the food home will have one provided by the school.
“We’d like to start this in September and have September 7 be our first weekend,” Cox said.
Donham said she was inspired to start the program by experiences in her youth.
“I grew up volunteering with a backpack program in Titus County. It really impacted me. As I’ve become a teacher, I’ve seen with the kids in my classroom that we’re serving them very well in school but you worry about them when they go home on Thanksgiving and Christmas break.”
Donham said the food provided through the program is not just for one weekend at a time.
“One of the things that is really cool about the program, they send extra food home with them over the holidays,” Donham said.
Cox said they hoped to gain more attention for the program in the community so more people might be moved to donate.
“We need opportunities to get the word out, to see if individuals or families are able to step up and say ‘I can sponsor a child’,” Cox said.
Identities of students in the program will be kept confidential. Cox said teachers are trained to recognize the signs of hunger in students who may need additional food. Students in the program will receive food discreetly.
Individuals or families who sponsor a child will receive a letter from ETFB to claim the donation as tax-deductible.
To make a donation to support the KMS Backpack Program, go online EastTexasFoodBank.org/Backpack and write Kilgore ISD Backpack-#706B-2 under the “Backpack Program You Wish to Support” field and put KMS in the comments section. To make a donation by check, make out the check to “East Texas Food Bank” and on the memo line, write “Kilgore ISD Backpack-#706B-2 KMS”. Mail the check to East Texas Food Bank, 3201 Robertson Rd., Tyler, TX. 75701.
For questions about the program, contact Lucy Donham at firstname.lastname@example.org or April Cox at email@example.com.