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Optimists work to extend meal program to 200 MISD offers summer food program

By Charles Iyoho
June 18, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.

Backpack Program volunteers are still seeking to extend their meal assistance program to all six elementary schools in the Marshall school district by the start of the 2010 fall semester.

The Backpack Program, sponsored by the Marshall Optimist Club, aids students who are unable to afford a meal on a daily basis during the school year.

Sam Fogle, Optimist Club member and Marshall school trustee, said officials are seeking to reach at least 200 students in total at each elementary school.

Last year, the club aided over 130 children at Robert E. Lee Elementary School, Carver Elementary School and J.H. Moore Elementary School.

Next year, the organization will work to extend its effort to students at David Crockett, South Marshall and William B. Travis.

"I feel like it was very successful," said Fogle of the program's impact. "From the feedback that I've had from Teresa Crandell (MISD health services supervisor) indirectly, the attendance of the kids was much improved, their behavior was better and their attitude was better."

Optimist Club members established the Backpack Program at Carver in January. They established an additional program at J.H. Moore about a month later and another one at Robert E. Lee shortly afterwards.

Optimist Club President Carl Rhodes said previously the group is working to raise at least $30,000 before September and seeking financial assistance from local civic organizations, church groups, charitable figures and businesses.

Fogle said they've collected about a third of the funds, including $5,000 from the Optimist Club.

"We've got a plan in place to try to reach other civic clubs, small groups, as well as other individuals," said Fogle. "Our big push is going to be to reach out to the teachers between now and when school starts to try to encourage them to sponsor a child through payroll deductions."

Fogle said food in the program is supplied by the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler.

Each backpack is filled with several food items, including apple juice, noodle rings and chicken, beans and franks, milk, diced peaches, apple cinnamon granola bars and chili.

Each of the backpacks also are tagged with a number, which identifies the student who will be receiving it, Rhodes said.

The annual cost for each student is $150 - $144 goes to the East Texas Food Bank and $6 goes to overhead costs.

Last year, Marshall school trustees approved a donation of a building by the Optimist Club to store supplies for the program. The facility is valued at $1,400.

Fogle said students enrolled in the program receive enough food to last an entire weekend. Once classes resume the following Monday, they return the backpacks at a location on campus to be restocked with items.

Fogle said new ones will be furnished to students next year since they were able to keep their backpacks at the end of the spring semester.

Officials say they hope to make the program as confidential as possible.

Fogle said the items distributed are healthy and nutritious. A special type of milk that can be left at room temperature for several days also is provided.

Optimist members work directly with the East Texas Food Bank to provide the items, but Fogle says he hopes some of the local food banks and businesses will supplement the effort.

"So far, everything... has been very positive," said Fogle.

For more information on how to donate, contact Le Ila Dixon at 903-938-9737, Teresa Crandell at 903-927-8700 or Optimist Club President Carl Rhodes at 903-926-1723.

<strong>Marshall Summer Feeding Program</strong>

The Marshall Independent School District will conduct its Summer Feeding Program at South Marshall Elementary School from June 14 to July 9 and at the Marshall Junior High School and Price T. Young Middle School from June 15 to 30.

Breakfast will be from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Lunch will be from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The event is for children ages 18 and under. There is no registration cost.

For more information, contact 903-927-8700.

<strong>Karnack Summer Feeding Program</strong>

The Karnack Independent School District will conduct its Summer Feeding Program at the Karnack Elementary cafeteria, 14109 Farm-to-Market Road 134, Karnack, starting June 14 and ending July 29.

Lunch will be provided to students ages 18 and younger from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, according to a press release from the district.

Participants are not required to register.

For more information, contact call 903-679-3117.



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