The Kansas Food Bank gave out record numbers of Friday food packages to schoolchildren in Wichita and throughout the state this year as part of its Food 4 Kids program.
The highest number of backpacks of food handed out to needy school children was 7,158 during a week in February, said Larry Gunkel, a Food Bank official running the program.
Last week the Food Bank handed out 7,016 food packages, Gunkel said. The numbers are the two highest recorded since the program was started in 2004, he said. So is the number of schools in Kansas now served by the program: 400, Gunkel said.
Last year the program served 6,374 students in 369 schools.
The program ensures that students identified by school staff as chronically hungry can get a backpack of food on Fridays for the weekend. Teachers and school social workers have told the Food Bank for years that some of their students often don’t get anything to eat outside of school breakfasts and lunches.
Gunkel last week released numbers showing how many backpacks are handed out at which school in Wichita.
These are “the number of students per week which receive a weekend food packet and (are) identified as weekend chronically hungry by the professionals in the schools,” Gunkel said in an e-mail.
The last distribution of food packets is May 17. Students begin summer break May 22.
Gunkel’s numbers show that some schools don’t require that many backpacks, and that poverty is unevenly distributed around Wichita schools. Woodland Elementary, for example, needed 13 backpacks. Park elementary: 10. Price-Harris elementary: 2.
But Rae Woodman Elementary needed 60. Stanley Elementary: 76. Cloud Elementary: 66. Colvin Elementary: 88. Harry Street Elementary: 60.
The program has also found need in schools all over the state.
An elementary school in Chanute needed 73. Coffeyville Elementary needed 58. Colby Middle School needed 37. Haven Grade School in Haven needed 53. Eisenhower Elementary in Independence needed 50. Washington Elementary in Junction City needed 40. Meadowlark Elementary in Pittsburg needed 53. The elementary school in Syracuse, in far western Kansas, needed 60.
Gunkel said the Food Bank is preparing for how to get food to chronically hungry children during the summer months.