Some Hays USD 489 students go to school hungry every day.
There are some programs working to change that.
Food 4 Thought has been helping to feed some of the district’s youngest children since 2005.
Diane Pfeifer, coordinator of the program, said the idea to help food-insecure Head Start children on the weekend, came from former United Way Executive Director Sue Rouse.
The program fed Head Start children for two years. Then Pfeifer talked to Larry Gunkel at Kansas Food Bank, and the school district partnered on Food 4 Kids in 2007-08, a program for elementary-school age children.
Each building principal must complete paperwork for the program that helps feed “children who don’t have enough food at home. It’s not for the family, but it’s for that child,” Pfeifer said.
Some Early Childhood Connections children, who need the food program don’t qualify for the Food Bank program because they live in Russell, Ellis and are in the home-based program. Those children receive goods through Food 4 Thought.
“We buy our own food and make up our own bags,” Pfeifer said.
The second or third week of every month, a bundle of food bags are delivered to the school district. The USD 489 food driver then delivers the correct number of bags to each school.
The food goes home with the children who have signed up to receive a bag.
Food in the ECC program is given to youngsters every Thursday, and Food 4 Kids on Fridays.
“Every school does it a little differently. Some kids go to the office and pick it up before they leave the building. Other schools deliver it right to the student,” Pfeifer said.
Whatever the method, each school handles the distribution discreetly.
The food bag can include items such as peanut butter, cereal, fruit cups, raisins and pudding cups.
Last year, 68 children received bags, plus six in the Food 4 Thought program. Pfeifer doesn’t have numbers yet for this year.
The program only is through the school year because of a lack of interest during the summer, she said.
There is no income qualification for the program. Most of the referrals come from the teaching staff.
“If you know a child is coming to you Monday mornings and is just famished, that’s a telltale sign,” Pfeifer said.
When a family is identified as being in need, the first step is making sure they are connected to all other places for assistance.
“Are they getting all the services that they can? Because, you know, we don’t want any hungry children,” she said.
For more information about Food 4 Kids, visit kansasfoodbank.org. For Food 4 Thought, call Pfeifer at (785) 623-2430.