Superintendent's Spotlight, by Mike Kuhrt

Hello Parents and WFISD Staff,

 

 

For most of us, America is a land of plenty, and when tragedy strikes we find ways to help those who suffer. We are quick to rally around those pummeled by disasters like Hurricane Harvey or Irma.

 

But it’s easy to forget that there is another urgent, ongoing need in every city, including ours. It also needs our attention, but it is easily overlooked.

 

It is hunger. In our area, for every four children, one is hungry.

 

Our city has some wonderful programs in place to help children, something I’m learning about now from my spot on the board of the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank.

 

With WFISD’s economically disadvantaged rate sitting at 66 percent, we know right there that hunger is a pervasive problem in our schools. But in some of our schools, the number of economically disadvantaged children runs as high as 99 percent. That means that at some of our schools, nearly everybody qualifies as “food insecure.”

 

Thankfully, they will get a hot breakfast free of charge at school every morning – something the state provides for all Texas school children, disadvantaged or not. Because everyone agrees: It’s a no-brainer that a hungry child can’t concentrate on learning.

 

In recent years, as many as 23,000 children in our area also received a free or reduced-priced lunch to relieve their hunger needs during the day.

 

But the problem of hunger still shows up at nights, on weekends and on school vacations, when food is unavailable at home.

 

 

PowerPak 4 Kids Backpack Program

 

What hungry child would not like this: A two-pound sack of good food to take home at the end of a long week at school. The PowerPak 4 Kids program, sponsored by the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank, provides this bag of nutritious meals for children in 56 school locations in Wichita County and in 10 other surrounding counties. Since it began in 2006, the program has grown from serving 493 children to more than 1,700 each week.

 

During 2016, the volunteers with the PowerPak 4 Kids program distributed 55,541 bags of food. That includes the summer months.

 

Our teachers recommend children for the program if they meet food-insecure criteria provided by the Food Bank.

 

Coming Soon: Empty Bowls

Then there are special events that come along throughout the year that shine a light on our community’s hunger problem.

 

One popular event that’s coming soon is “Empty Bowls.” It’s a nationwide program, but it began here in 2012.

 

This year, Empty Bowls takes place Tuesday, October 10 at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University. It’s a lunchtime event from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Participants come for a simple meal of soup and bread. They sample soups, breads, drinks and desserts from local restaurants.

 

Then, guests select a favorite bowl from a handmade pottery selection and take it home as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. Tickets are $35 before the event; $40 at the door.

 

Proceeds from Empty Bowls will benefit the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank as it fights daily to relieve hunger.

 

Food Bank Maximizes Dollars

I’m impressed that each dollar raised for the Food Bank provides 3.4 meals for hungry people in Wichita Falls. Think of it: For every $30 given, the Food Bank can supply 300 meals to hungry families.

 

My heart goes out to the hungry children in our community, and the teachers and staff who must help them every day at school. It is a difficult, pervasive problem, but we must address it together – all year round.

 

There are so many strategies we can use – and are using—to help children learn. This is such a busy time of year. But let’s never get so busy that we forget the most foundational educational strategy of all – to make sure the children in our classrooms have enough to eat.

 

It takes constant vigilance, I know. But you can do it. And you are doing it. Thank you, and keep up the awesome work. Our kids are worth it.

 

Mike Kuhrt

Superintendent