Fast being planned to raise awareness of student hunger
By Hannah DeClerk
Marshall News Messenger
Dec. 22, 2010 at 2:03 a.m.
Community members are planning to fast for 24-hours to experience hunger through the eyes of a student in the backpack program.
The Triple M Backpack program was created in response to a growing number of elementary school children who were not provided with proper nutrition on the weekends. Many of the children would come to school on Mondays hungry and unable to concentrate on work.
According to the East Texas Food Bank, 428,000 East Texans are at risk of hunger, that's one in four children, one in five adults and one in seven seniors.
The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall decided to take action on the situation and formed a partnership with Marshall ISD and The East Texas Food Bank to provide weekend meals for the children.
"The students in class have been able to perform better, and they have been going to school. Their attendance is so much better, and their behavior is so much better," said Sam Fogle, co-chair of the Triple M Backpack Program.
Now, with its one year anniversary coming up in January, Fogle said he never would he have imagined the program so successful.
"We had a goal to start with, for just one school and to get our feet wet, to see what we would be able to do. Now we are in four schools for a year's time," said Fogle.
He said the program is in the process of being granted non-profit status from the government.
"We have already received, from the faculty of the state, they are have accepted our application in corporation papers," said Fogle. "The next step is non-profit status, and the paperwork is in process."
Twice a week, the East Texas Food Bank delivers food to a locked warehouse on MISD property. The food is then picked up from the warehouse and brought to the different elementary schools, where the school nurses load individual packs of food into the student's backpacks every Friday.
"As you heard, the food bank is a real partner. Not only do they provide the backpacks and food, but they deliver the food to Marshall twice a month. They also do the education thing, and send papers in the form of flyers about children's nutrition," said Le Ila Dixon, Triple M Backpack Program co-chair. "All of the food is shelf-safe, in kid-friendly packaging and requires no refrigeration and no heating."
She explained the students who participate in the program are recommended by school faculty members and staff who go by a certain list of characteristics that prove a student to be undernourished.
"One example of a child who fasts all weekend, is when they return to school in the morning Monday and wolfs down their breakfast and then tries to get to everyone else's left overs. Then they have a surge of blood sugar and go to sleep," said Ms. Dixon.
Altogether, the program sponsors 120 students - 42 from Carver, 30 from J.H. Moore, 30 from Robert. E. Lee, and 22 at David Crockett.
The program's overall goal is to sponsor children from every MISD elementary school, and raise about $30,000 to do so, said Fogle.
"We are not quite there yet, but we are hoping to accomplish it soon," said Fogle.
Ms. Dixon said she and Fogle have come up with ideas to raise funds and heighten awareness of the program.
One of the ways is through a 24-hour fast in which community members are encouraged to sponsor a child for a dollar or more an hour during the fast.
"We have been looking for a fund-raiser that fits our program," said Ms. Dixon. "You could have a golf tournament, but what does that have to do with a backpack program? However, going hungry for 24 hours fits."
The fast will begin at 11 a.m. Jan. 27 where participants will partake in an early light lunch of soup and crackers. They will begin the fast immediately following, and reconvene at noon Friday for a culminating event.
"Up until the fast is over, they experience what it is to not be able to concentrate on something and having it running through their head about how hungry they are," she explained. "They are experiencing what the kids have to go through during school and cannot concentrate because they are so hungry."
Ms. Dixon said she and other members of the club will begin distributing flyers to community members, businesses and churches with a telephone number to contact.
Those interested can call 903-938-9737 to receive a packet containing the program's goals, purposes, and schedule of events.
"We have three goals," explained Ms. Dixon. "To heighten our community's awareness of the hunger that is here in East Texas, Jump start a diet for a healthy eating plan for 2011, and to, of course, raise funds for the back pack program."
To donate to the program, mail to P.O. Box 1234 Marshall, TX 75671, call 903.938.9737, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.