1 in 4 children in Oklahoma doesn’t have consistent access to food. When students don’t have the food needed for a healthy lifestyle, social and academic success in school becomes much more difficult.
Always willing to try new methods of getting nutritious food to the people who need it, the Food Bank began a new pilot project, Pop-up Markets, with funding received by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Pop-Up Markets take their shape from the successful Joyful Food Markets in Washington D.C. The model focuses on providing access to healthy food to low-income families with children and encouraging healthy eating in a fun, vibrant atmosphere at their school.
Dolores Huerta, a Title I elementary school with about 400 students, serves a predominately Hispanic population. Most students live within a mile and a half of the building, and about 94 percent qualify for free and reduced-price meals. According to school principal, Janice Thoumire, many parents call the school first when they need help with resources such as holiday help, uniforms, mental health resources, and food assistance.
When a student indicates a need for food help at home, the school can contact a nearby pantry at Christview Christian Church, also a Partner Agency of the Food Bank, for help. Arvest Bank, a partner of the school, and Food Bank supporter, also helps with identified needs. Ms. Thoumire continued, “In addition, the teachers will always come through if there is a family or employee who needs help.”
Ms. Thoumire has eagerly welcomed the Pop-Up Markets to her school. “We have the weekly backpack program that provides food over the weekend for the student. I see this providing more long-term items for mom to cook at home. This is investing in items like a bag of rice that can last for three or four meals instead of a quick fix until you get back to school. In addition, so much of the food here is fresh food, which is very expensive in the stores. For families, they can’t buy the healthier things at stores. This food is not only fulfilling the need of hunger, but it is also much more nutritional than other things we can offer.”
In addition to the tables filled with nutritious food for families to shop, the Food Bank provided additional food that volunteers bagged and staged to go. “We have a nearby apartment complex with about 150 students where transportation is a big issue. Many of the parents don’t have cars, or they work and couldn’t get here for this. For those families, we work with the Food Bank to provide food. Tomorrow, we’ll drive it over to them. This way the students don’t have to carry this food home with them on the bus and can still get the benefits.”
“I am so impressed with the number of people here today. We have parents that are picking up their children and coming in. They now know this is getting started and they will look forward to coming in the future. It is very exciting. Thank you.”