By JESSIE HORTON
ERATH COUNTY (May 15, 2015) — Imagine, it’s the weekend and you’re sitting down with the family and someone’s hungry. What do you do? Check the fridge, then the cabinets, whip something up and, if nothing else, hit a drive thru, right?
Now imagine if you couldn’t. If you didn’t have the money to feed your kids. Or imagine you’re the kid, hungry and not really understanding why. Heartbreaking, but that doesn’t happen in Erath County, right? Wrong. More children go to bed hungry in our area than you think. Actually, one in four Erath County kids do not receive the proper nutrition.
Children who are eligible to receive free or reduced lunches at school (these meal programs also provide breakfast for eligible students who arrive in enough time to eat breakfast before school begins), are those whose families can’t always afford to feed them a good meal at night or on the weekends.
According to Feeding America – a child hunger study done in the United States, 84 percent of Three-Way ISD students receive free or reduced lunches. And while Three-Way has the largest percentage in our area, they aren’t the only ones fighting hunger.
Sixty-six percent of Dublin ISD students, 57 percent of Lingleville ISD students, 52 percent of Stephenville ISD students, 50 percent of Huckabay ISD students, 47 percent of Morgan Mill ISD students and 21 percent of Bluff Dale ISD students are currently receiving free or reduced lunch program benefits.
Those students who depend on school meals for primary nutrition are the same students who are at risk of being hungry outside of school. Insufficient nutrition in young children can inhibit growth and affect brain development. According to recent studies, children who are hungry are two to four times more likely to have health problems.
And that’s where Backpack Buddies of Erath County comes in. They are a complete non-profit, volunteer organization made up of members of several local churches with the mission to “help alleviate childhood hunger in Erath County by providing nutritious, child-friendly foods for the weekends.”
Over the past three years that the program has been active in Erath County, the organization has provided food to over 214 children in Stephenville, Lingleville, Huckabay, Dublin, Bluff Dale, Morgan Mill and Three-Way. But, Backpack Buddies Board Member Rev. Kory Koch said, the organization knows there are so many more children in the area who need their help.
“Admittedly, the need is gray and our resources are limited,” Koch said. “That means we need financial support and volunteers to make sure we can continue to serve the hungry children in the communities.”
The organization does their best to keep the meals all cost effective so they can help the maximum amount of Erath County kids as possible. According to the group’s numbers, food for one child for the weekend costs only $6! That means sponsoring a child for a semester is only $108, and for a year it’s only $216.
While members of the Oakdale United Methodist Church, First united Methodist Church of Stephenville, Stephenville First Baptist Church and the Stephenville Christian Reformed Church formed Backpack Buddies as a ministry program, Koch said you don’t have to be a member of those churches to participate or help out our children. Everyone is welcome and members of the organization will come and present information to your organization, if you think they might be interesting in helping as well.
For more information about the program, call 254.965.5046 or email email@example.com.