TYLER (KYTX) - The East Texas Food Bank is expanding the BackPack Program to all 18 elementary schools in Tyler ISD this year and will serve more than 1,300 children. The expansion of the program is part of the East Texas Food Bank's five-year plan to reach hungry children throughout Tyler ISD. The total projected cost of the five-year expansion is approximately $1 million. Last school year, the East Texas Food Bank distributed backpacks to approximately 1,000 children in Tyler, and looks forward to serving even more children this year.
Mentoring Minds has made an initial gift of $150,000 and today as part of their ongoing commitment to children in East Texas they are announcing an additional $150,000 pledge to help the East Texas Food Bank reach their goal. Any donations made by the community for the BackPack Program in Tyler ISD will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Mentoring Minds up to $150,000.
As business owners, we feel it is our responsibility to give back to the community," said Lisa Lujan, owner of Mentoring Minds. "The BackPack Program is especially close to our hearts because of how it directly impacts education. If kids are successful in school, they will be successful in life. We feel like we are investing in the future of our community."
The BackPack Program is designed to close the weekend "hunger gap" for needy children. Every Friday during the school year, participating children receive a backpack filled with easy-to-prepare items, such as soup, peanut butter, granola bars, fruit, juice and shelf-stable milk. It's enough food to last them until Monday morning, when school meal programs resume.
In East Texas, 73,000 children are eligible for free and reduced-price school meal programs. In Tyler ISD, nearly 70% of elementary students are eligible for these programs. Although these programs are absolutely essential in the fight against child hunger, they are not sufficient to prevent hunger in the neediest children.
"Tyler ISD is so thankful for the BackPack Program because it makes a difference in the lives of many of our students," said Gary Mooring, Tyler ISD Interim Superintendent. "Students who can focus on learning, rather than when they will eat their next meal, are students who have the greatest potential to succeed in school."
Hunger has lasting, damaging effects on children's health, and research has shown that even mild malnutrition can impair physical growth and brain development. Additionally, there is a correlation between adequate nutrition and children's behavior and ability to learn in school.
"In 2009, the East Texas Food Bank began an ambitious five-year expansion phase of the BackPack Program in Tyler, designed to reach all 18 elementary campuses, with a vision of helping to create a hunger-free school district. We are grateful to Mentoring Minds who share in our vision and making a commitment to the program," said Dennis Cullinane, executive director of the East Texas Food Bank. "The East Texas Food Bank provides the food, buys the backpacks and covers all other administrative and delivery costs associated with the program."
To make a donation to the East Texas Food Bank's BackPack Program and have your gift matched dollar-for-dollar, go to EastTexasFoodBank.org/BackPack or call 903.597.3663. To sponsor a child for an entire school year costs $157, which will be doubled thanks to Mentoring Minds. The East Texas Food Bank hopes individuals, businesses and organization will join in the fight against childhood hunger as Mentoring Minds has done.
Currently, the East Texas Food Bank's BackPack Program operates at more than 100 sites across East Texas providing nutritious weekend meals to approximately 4,500 children.