How much food insecurity is there among the youth in South Logan County?
More than you may know.
“You would have never thought we would live in a society where people would go hungry,” said Jyme Beth Diffee, the principal at Booneville Elementary School.
To combat hunger issues for its students both the Booneville and Magazine school districts operates a backpack program through which more than 110 students take home packs of food each Friday.
They do so with the assistance of the Kiwanis Club and other organizations.
The Kiwanis club took time out during its weekly meeting last week to recognize Carrol Garner, one of its biggest contributors to its causes, including the backpack program, with a distinguished service award.
Garner’s interest in food insecurities, he said after the meeting, came from having worked with organizations like Goodfellows when he lived in other regions of the state, and seeing disturbing things while making food deliveries.
In Magazine, the 42 backpacks sent home each weekend covers 111 students, according to Renee Holt, who oversees the program there.
“We are very blessed to have you guys and other community organizations donate to our backpack program,” said Holt. “We can send home pretty decent nutritional food — some of it is not but it’s easy for them to fix.”
Holt said she has kids, especially those in high school, request to be in the program, and request to be removed.
“I don’t think anybody takes advantage of our program,” she said. “I think its a needed thing for the families we do serve.”
Holt said the benefit for the school district is that a student is more prepared to learn if they are not hungry.
“What you guys do for us, you have no idea,” said Jan Taylor, who oversees the program in Booneville.
Taylor said a clearing house service helps provide the school with food for 37 backpacks each week. The school needs about 70.
“What you give me makes up (the difference),” Taylor told club members last week. “I add to that 37 bags to make sure there’s more protein and things like that.”
Taylor adds that the students are grateful for the food issues, demonstrating as much with hugs and pointing her out to parents when their paths cross in town.
“Some kids don’t know if their next meal will be when they return to school,” said Taylor.
Diffee said organizations like Kiwanis help meet immediate needs with food, clothing and more. And if what is needed isn’t readily available, a teacher will spend their own money to provide for students.
Diffee said the school’s clothes closet is well stocked — Kiwanis members hold periodic socks and underwear drives as well.
The backpack program — Holt said this is her 21st year with her school’s program — has even seen kids who have graduated and started earning their own way, seek out Holt to give back.
Because the Magazine School District is on a so-called hybrid schedule the program sends home as much extra food as it can for extended breaks. And, Holt said, because it is able to extend it’s summer feeding program to weeks they are out of school providing breakfast and lunch for those who will come to the school, which is obviously easier for those in town.
In Booneville, where the school year is traditional, its summer feeding program also provides breakfast and lunch through at the elementary school and is utilized my a multitude of people raising grandchildren because they tend to be on a fixed income.