There are hungry children in Athens City Schools, and that's why members of one local program work to make sure they are fed.
The Full Tummy Project specializes in feeding children through the weekend when school feeding programs aren't operating. It takes several area churches and organizations for the program to work.
One by one, packages of instant oatmeal, peanut butter and cheese crackers, ready-to-eat ravioli, fruit cups and granola bars were dropped into plastic bags recently by members of the Athens Rotary Club.
Those plastic bags, about 665, were loaded up to be delivered to Athens' elementary schools, Athens Intermediate School and Athens Middle School for the month of January. The same bags will be placed in children's backpacks on Fridays, giving them enough nonperishable food to last until breakfast the next Monday.
Full Tummy Project Director Regina Kyle said each week the program can feed up to 200 children enrolled in Athens City Schools. The project is currently feeding 165 children a week, she said. Those numbers fluctuate depending on the need.
Each school is sponsored by a local church or organization, according to Kyle, and a small group of students started getting bags this year at Athens High School.
Kyle, who has been working with the Full Tummy Project for about nine years, believes it's important to grow awareness of the program.
“We do have kids here who are hungry,” Kyle said. “I think it's kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing. If people don't see it, they don't think it exists. It does.”
Kyle thinks it's important for kids to go to school ready to learn, and she knows if a child is hungry it's hard to concentrate on anything else.
She said if the obstacle of hunger is removed, it helps the children in more ways than one.
“We love the Full Tummy Project,” said Beth Patton, assistant superintendent of Administrative Services and Instruction. “Children look forward to getting their weekly bags. We know there are students in food insecure homes, and this helps ensure they do not go hungry over the weekend.”
Kyle hopes the program will grow so the Full Tummy Project can do more for kids than a weekend bag of food. She is grateful for the community's support.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to help. Donations of food and money are accepted.