LAMAR COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Lamar County School District social worker Latressa Young said years ago teachers noticed some concerning signs with some of their kids.
“They pay attention to them in the cafeteria when they are eating," Young said. "If they are eating their food really fast or if they are asking others if they are going to eat that.”
Young and Lamar County School Superintendent Tess Smith said the district soon realized some kids were coming to school hungry.
“Some kids whose parents worked regularly or the parent wasn’t there on a regular basis,” Young said.
“Right, or kids would be hungry at school and teachers would be providing snacks and things like that,” Smith said.
They said they soon knew snacks in the classroom were not enough, and the issue of a hungry child went beyond the school week. They said the district came up with a plan to ensure kids went home with more than homework assignments in their backpacks.
“We partnered when Mississippi Food Network, and we get these meals and they are all nonperishable and easy fix meals,” Young said.
The partnership resulted in the Lamar County School District Backpack Program. It’s food given to an elementary child every Friday afternoon to take home and prepare for themselves just in case a parent isn’t home.
“They are in a little Ziploc bag and they will go to the office to get it from the counselor," Young said. “[The] counselor puts it in their backpack and no one ever knows they have it.”
Young said she and counselors work annually to find kids that need the program. Smith said this past summer they found those kids.
“So, we decided this year that we are going to expand the program,” Smith said.
The backpack program now serves 276 kids and counting. One meal is $4. It takes $128 to feed one child for a year. Smith and Young said the program is privately funded, but costs can still be a battle so they want your help. Here’s how.
“One group that we are very thankful for is our Lamar County Education Foundation because the money, if donated, is tax deductible,” Smith said. “So, we have had people just write a check and on the memo it says, ‘I want to feed a child for a year.'”
Young said she believes parents are doing all they can, and she hopes this program gives families the extra help they need.
If you would like to help feed a child you can make a donation to the Lamar County Education Foundation by mail at P.O. Box 18590 Hattiesburg, MS 39404. Or, you can contact Latressa Young at 601-794-1030.