Florida High School Students Take the Bite Out of Hunger in Their Community
End the Hunger!
“Do you have any extra food in the school cafeteria? Can you please give me some?“
"Why? Because I have no food to eat at home during the weekends.”
Unfortunately, this is a reality. Many homes have no food, leaving children hungry throughout the weekend. Too many children look forward to Mondays because of the food they will receive at school.
Okeechobee High School (OHS) students realized hunger was an issue in their community. The Florida students researched, fundraised, and created a student-led program to combat the problem. Their solution, “End the Hunger!,” is helping elementary students one backpack at a time.
Fridays used to be full of anxiety. The children knew they were going home to empty pantries. Mondays were spent waiting for lunchtime and their next real meal. The End the Hunger! backpack program takes away the anxiety and waiting. Students go home knowing they have weekend meals. They now return to school with a full belly and a ready mind on Monday.
”End the Hunger! provides kid-friendly, non-perishable food - three meals and a snack for each day of the weekend,” says Okeechobee High teacher Samantha Szentmartoni. “Thursday afternoons my high school students pack the food into bags. Friday afternoon they personally deliver joy.”
“The students come running when they see me,” said Sofia Medrano, a senior at OHS. “They get excited when they see the food. The program has opened my eyes to help even more kids in my community.”
When the program began, five high school students were feeding 30 of the hungriest kids at one elementary school. A State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant enabled the program to expand.
“Now they are feeding 150 children every weekend,“ says State Farm agent Gretchen Robertson. "They are making a major impact in their community.”
"The students receiving the food have better attendance records. They are more confident,” says North Elementary School counselor Patricia Leach.
“We are helping kids overcome some of the barriers they face,” Szentmartoni says. “Breaking the cycle of childhood hunger will help set these students up to succeed. We hope this helps them graduate high school and go on to post-secondary training or college.”