2013-05-16 / Front Page

Food pantry leading effort to provide 'Bear Necessities'

CHAD WILSON news@c-bstatesman.com

More than 800 students in Brownsboro ISD are on the free lunch program at the intermediate and elementary school level. Some of those students leave school on Friday not knowing what they will eat over the weekend.

A new program in the works will help students know they will be provided for – Bear Necessities.

“The Bear Necessities backpack program is reflective of the commitment our churches and schools have for our students. The Rock Hill Church Food Pantry is leading the way with Brownsboro ISD to provide nutritious food each weekend throughout the year,” Superintendent Dr. Chris Moran said. “Our children and their well-being are the most important thing.”

Sherry Parker, volunteer coordinator with the Food Pantry at Rock Hill Baptist Church, is working with Moran and Parent Involvement Coordinator Perry Eaton to target the students within the district that could use a backpack full of food before they leave school each Friday.

“According to the most recent Texas hunger research, ‘almost onein five Texas households are food insecure, and over one-in-four children live in households that struggle to afford food.’ In this program, a backpack is given to students on Friday, filled with nutritious foods to provide them meals for over the weekend. The backpacks are returned on Monday. After working at the pantry every month for a year, I realized this is a pressing need for our area,” Parker said.

Parker is using the summer to gather sponsors and volunteers for the program before sending home the first backpacks just as the 2013- 14 school year begins. The estimated cost per child is $157 per year to participate in a 36-week program which includes the backpack and food items.

“Funds raised will assist as many qualifying students as possible. I think that the heart of this community is very generous and once they realize what a need there is, they will step up and help out as much as they can,” she said.

Food will come from the RHBC Food Pantry and the East Texas Food Bank. In fact, the East Texas Food Bank has several area backpack programs in place.

The East Texas Food Bank provides food for more than 4,500 children in 17 counties in its service area. In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 130,000 backpacks were distributed through schools, churches and after school programs.

“Working in the food pantry for over a year, I have learned there are varying degrees of need. One family may come in claiming they have only $600 a month income while another will claim $1,700-$2,000, but they both need food,” Parker said. “The $1,700-$2,000 month family might need temporary assistance due to loss of employment or medical reasons. The $600 a month is already on government assistance, but it’s still not enough. With that said, we will rely heavily on the teachers, counselors and even the cafeteria staff, to help identify children who come in starving to death on Monday, or request extra snacks.”

If enough sponsors are gathered, the program could extend to the junior high and high school.

“I would love to have contacts at different churches who are in charge of their own volunteers who will help distribute the backpacks to the different campuses,” Parker said. “Dr. Moran came up with a really great name for the program, the ‘BEAR’ Necessities. But it’s true, food is such an essential necessity for learning. Malnourishment has been linked to low test scores and low academic performance. If the children know the community is willing to invest in their lives, their well-being, perhaps this show of support would help them to succeed with better grades to prepare them for a better future.”

The goal of the program is to be a community-wide effort with various churches, organizations and individuals participating to help feed BISD children.

“Student Council groups and/or National Honor Society Students could serve as volunteers, ‘Students- Assisting-Students’, and learn the value of community service,” Parker said.

Anyone wanting to participate in the program should contact Rock Hill Baptist Church at 903-852- 6711.

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