2013-08-01 / Front Page

Organizing to feed BISD children

Local leaders meet to discuss BackPack Program
CHAD WILSON news@c-bstatesman.com

Dozens of area leaders from all walks of life met last week for an informational meeting on the Bear Necessities BackPack Program.

The BackPack Program is facilitated through the East Texas Food Bank and is designed to nutritionally supplement high risk Brownsboro ISD students away from school.

Representatives from the East Texas Food Bank presented the back-pack pro- gram while local organizer Sherry Parker shared her vision of how the process will work to help BISD students.

“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. “It’s not our intention to take away from any of the other great food pantry organizations out there, like God’s Open Hands, Westlake, or the Food Pantry at Rock Hill. The Bear Necessities program is in addition to these and to care for the children in our community.”

Esther Brown of the East Texas Food Bank said the back-pack mission is to provide nutritional meals and snacks to children whose primary source of food is the school cafeteria. A back-pack with food items is designed to help sustain a child during weekends.

“It is hard to define hunger,” Brown said. “Instead of hunger, we use the term ‘food insecure.’ A child might not tell you if they have enough food at home, but through observation you can see patterns emerge that will set the child apart.”

Brown said a child’s size is not always an indicator of their hunger level. Instead, physical signs of hunger, or food deficiencies, are swollen or puffy skin, hyperactive, irritable, withdrawn, increased aggressiveness, problems getting along with others, as well as having a short attention span or general inability to concentrate could be indicators.

Also, teachers, counselors and staff may listen to the student if they offer information about parents losing a job or experience a change in their home life situation.

Other behavioral observations may find a child who rushes to the cafeteria line; one, who does not leave anything on their plate, lingers around for seconds, or may show extreme hunger on Monday mornings.

Brownsboro Superintendent Dr. Chris Moran was one of several school officials in attendance at the meeting. He said the district has considered ways to help a child away from school in the past but could not come up with a good plan until Parker walked into their office.

The East Texas Food Bank has more than 95 back-pack programs across the region with more than 4,500 students being assisted. By teaming with the non-profit organization, the Bear Necessities program has the structure in place to succeed in its mission to help hungry students.

The East Texas Food Bank offers screening pre-requisites but Bear Necessities will rely on referrals from teachers, administrative staff, counselors and cafeteria staff. Those in pressing need will become priority. However, the more funds donated to the programs allow for more students to be selected.

More than 850 students in BISD elementary and intermediate schools are on the free lunch program. It costs $157 a year to sponsor one child in the program. Several area businesses have already stepped up and offered to sponsor a number of children through the ETFB, but fundraising efforts continue.

“I’ve been very encouraged by the various individuals, businesses and churches that have stated they are willing to help raise awareness and promote fundraising efforts for Bear Necessities. I really appreciate, Charla Hendrix and Citizens National Bank of Chandler for hosting the luncheon.”

Tax deductible contributions can be made on easttexasfoodbank.org/backpack or by mailing a check to East Texas Food Bank, Attn: Esther Brown, “BEAR” Necessities Backpack Program, 3201 Robertson Road Tyler, Texas 75701.

To ensure donations go toward BISD students, Bear Necessities should be written on the check or selected in the drop-down menu on the website.

For more information, or if your church would like to participate, contact Sherry Parker at 803-852-3479. Various fund-raising events are being planned, including the sale of Bear Necessities T-shirts.

“This is so much more than just providing food security. This is letting a child, who’s hungry and in need, know that their community and their churches care about them, and perhaps, provide them with hope for a better future with better education,” Parker said.

“In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, ‘The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” That’s a Bible verse I take quite literally.

“The Bear Necessities, aptly named by Dr. Moran, is a great program. The teachers I’ve spoken with are excited, because when you’re not constantly thinking about where your next meal is coming from, you might concentrate on what the teacher has to say in class. That’s a win/win. So yes, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Our community shows a lot of love to one another through various programs, leagues and sports. A program like this lets children in need know they are important and loved too.”

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