Hanley Elementary faculty have long recognized that too many of its students were coming to the Orange Mound area school from homes where food insecurity pervades. The issue was a real-life problem beyond nutrition, affecting students’ inability to focus on studies and creating some behavioral issues in the classroom.
“It really hurt the staff and me when we would hear a student come to school on Monday saying he or she didn’t get enough to eat over the weekend,” said Candice Fondren, Hanley’s student support specialist. The school makes breakfast and lunch available effectively as a stop-gate
for the students who are lacking enough to eat at home, she added. But the weekends are still a problem.
On Oct. 25th, a collaboration between Mid-South Food Bank and Community Schools of Memphis, with sponsorship by Cigna Health Care, made strides to alleviate that hunger problem by issuing the first of weekly Food for Kids BackPack boxes to 50 of Hanley’s scholars. Each box contains nutritious, easy-to-open, single-serve food – enough for six complete meals over each weekend during the school year.
The school’s counselor, LaNora Eubanks, helped identify which students were best suited to get the assistance. “These boxes of food will help relieve some of the stress many kids have about not eating, and that will ease the burden on the school, which tries to provide some of the basic needs,” she said.
Fifth grader Ackzavier Evans waited to return to class with peers in the school’s library after getting his box. He opened it and peeked inside.
“This makes me happy,” he said, noting that he and his younger brother will enjoy the extra food.
The school celebrated the start of the BackPack box distributions. Administrators hung school banners, tied balloons for decorations and the scholars each got a bag of Halloween candy.
Daniel Billingsley, a first-grade student, said he too was “excited” about the food.
Cigna’s sponsorship of the BackPack Program at Hanley comes as part of its commitment to bringing healthy food to Orange Mound, including sponsorship of a monthly Mobile Pantry distribution from Mid-South Food Bank at the Orange Mound Community Center, only a few blocks from Hanley. Both feeding programs fall in line with what Aspire Public Schools Superintendent Nickalous Manning said about Orange Mound, where he was raised.
“A school and the community should be as one,” he said. “The BackPack boxes of food are going to make a huge impact.”