PERMIAN BASIN - There are more than 11,000 children at risk of going hungry in Odessa. In Midland, there are more than 8,000. Child hunger in the Permian Basin is very real.
But to combat it, a program called Food 2 Kids, part of the Junior League of Odessa, is working with the West Texas Food Bank, reaching out to the community.
One of the schools the league adopted, Burleson Elementary School in Odessa, was a pilot school for the program two years ago.
For them, hungry children range in the triple digits, the hunger is keeping them from learning.
"We've had about 268, and at this time we have about 256," Burleson Elementary Principal, Lisa Anaya, said. "They're actually coming to school ready to learn because they have been fed over the weekend. That is what we were experiencing prior to this program. The students were coming irritable, lethargic, and not able to concentrate on academics. They're focus was the breakfast that we were serving in the morning and asking for seconds and thirds."
For many of these kids, their parents work too long of hours putting a roof over their heads to provide an evening meal, so Food 2 Kids allows people in the community to adopt a child, a class, or an entire school, filling up backpacks of food the kids take home to eat over the weekend.
If it's food for one child that school year or food for every hungry child on campus, the way to help is just a phone call away.
"They can sponsor a child for a year, which is about $168," Food 2 Kids Chair, Mandi Higgins, said. "They can sponsor just a class or they can go as far as sponsoring a whole school, which we say is about $9,000 a semester, so about $18,000 a year."
Adopting children in the program is catching on. The Junior League of Odessa has adopted five schools. Crestview Baptist Church in Midland has adopted one.
That's what Food 2 Kids needs: organizations, businesses, and volunteer groups pooling as much of their money together to see if they can adopt classes or schools.
Any little bit helps to keep the stomachs of the Basin's children full.
"We feed 1,100 kids a weekend right now and just knowing that there's 11,000 children out there that are hungry, you realize that this is just a tiny bit of kids that we're feeding," Higgins said.
"It is actually going to food," Anaya said. "The children are being fed. It's not a third-world country issue. It's a community issue."
Food 2 Kids cannot take any food donations as all the food in the backpacks is specifically prescribed by the West Texas Food Bank.
If you'd like to call Food 2 Kids to ask about donations, you can reach them at (432) 332-0095.
To help them pack the backpacks for the kids, Food 2 Kids meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Food Bank's warehouse in Odessa.
They begin stuffing October 5th, starting at 6 p.m. each Wednesday and working for one hour.