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Feeding Plano's Chronically Hungry Kids

We may think of Plano as one of our wealthier suburbs (with good reason: Collin County is the second wealthiest county in Texas), but almost 30 percent of Plano ISD elementary students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. And 1,800 of those students are considered chronically hungry — which means they may not get a good meal between leaving school on Friday and returning to class Monday morning.
“[Chronic hunger] keeps you from focusing on your schoolwork or just getting through the day,” says Jan Pruitt, president and CEO of the North Texas Food Bank. “There is nothing worse than being hungry.” The data agree: Kindergarteners with minor food insecurity learn less than their peers, while those with chronic hunger fall even further behind. Elementary-age children who are food insecure tend to achieve lower math scores and are more likely to repeat a grade.
So NTFB is partnering with Seven Loaves Food Pantry and Plano ISD to provide food-filled backpacks to chronically hungry elementary students through an expanded Food 4 Kids Plano program. This year, they will double the number of kids who take backpacks home on the weekends.
“Through Food 4 Kids Plano, we’re going to feed their hearts, minds and souls,” said Plano mayor Harry LaRosiliere at last week’s official launch. “We’re going to give them hope, let them know the community cares, and enable them to continue their education.”
Each Friday, eligible kids will pick up unmarked backpacks from the office, full of kid-friendly, shelf-stable foods to supplement their nutrition over the weekend. The foods are sorted and the backpacks packed by NTFB volunteers.
Karen Noble, principal of Plano’s Mendenhall Elementary, explains that the children get excited just knowing someone cared enough to pack their backpacks. “It’s helpful for the kids to see the love in that bag as much as to see the food in that bag,” she says.
If you want to help Plano kids stay fed over the weekends, mark your calendar for October 18 and 25 to help package food for Food 4 Kids Plano at NTFB’s distribution center. Children 10 and older are encouraged to participate. If you have younger kids or a group of kids that want to help, call to make special arrangements.
You can also donate money; $5 will cover one backpack, or $220 will feed a child for a whole school year. For more information, visit the Food 4 Kids Plano page at ntfb.org.