A generous donation is benefiting an educational program in the valley dedicated to feeding hungry school kids.
Last week, officials with AT&T provided $7,500 to Pahrump’s Food for Thought, which is a non-profit agency that feeds children over the weekends during the school year to help keep them focused on learning instead of an empty stomach.
The agency works in conjunction with the Pahrump Kiwanis Club.
Each week a group of volunteers packs backpacks with food items for the children that are sent home with them on Fridays for the weekend.
Food for Thought’s Chandra Weiland said despite federal and state social service programs, there are still too many children in the community who have little or no food on weekends.
“We started when the school year began and we are up to 350 kids right now who are receiving assistance,” she said. “We started with 70 kids during the first week of school and as the school year progresses it continues to grow. Last year we ended up with close to 500 kids in the program.”
AT&T’s donation makes up at least 30 percent of the deficit between annual food costs associated with the program and the grants provided by Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas.
The majority of kids in the Food for Thought program, according to Weiland, are in the elementary grade level.
“Manse and J.G. Johnson Elementary have over 100 students on the program,” she said. “Hafen and Floyd have roughly 25 to 30 students on the program, the middle school has over 30 students, while the high school has about 10 to 15.”
Weiland said officials at AT&T heard about the program from District 36 Assemblyman James Oscarson.
“He’s the person who put a bug in their ear about us,” she said. “They called me and it took us about two months to get all of the paperwork finalized. They told me it could be anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $7,000. When they came through with $7,500, it was a great surprise to us.”
Weiland said the donation could not have come at a better time, as the district’s winter break approaches for students.
“If we’re talking about 350 hungry kids, we have to feed them for 14 days because they are not getting their free and reduced lunches during winter break and that’s a big deal,” she said. “Fortunately there are a lot of people in the community who do food drives for us, plus we can really stretch a dollar, so $7,500 will go a long way. We can buy approximately five lunches for a dollar if we went with ramen noodles. When you’re talking $7,500 just think of how many ramen noodles that is.”
Additionally, Weiland said the organization is always looking for volunteers to help distribute the backpacks.
“We can have all the food in the world but if we don’t have the volunteers to get it from point A to point B, it makes no point. Nothing goes to waste because if there’s anything we get that we can’t use, we give it to the VFW food pantry, we don’t turn any food donations away. Anyone who donates to the program should know that everything stays in this community and that’s a big deal to a lot of people who are donating to charities.”
Food for Thought has several drop-off locations for food items throughout town, including the Pahrump Moose Lodge, Fitness for $10 and American First National Bank.
Monetary donations by check or money order can be made via the organization’s P.O. Box, 355 Pahrump, NV, 89041.
Food for Thought also has a summer program.
Applications can be obtained at the school offices or at the New Hope Fellowship campus at 781 West St.
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.