Students at River's Edge High School in Richland and Kennewick's Park Middle School will receive help from a new food assistance program for the rest of the school year.
Second Harvest Tri-Cities' new School Pantry program begins in January, thanks to a $25,000 grant from ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston.
That donation made School Pantry a reality, said Kathye Kilgore, Second Harvest Tri-Cities director.
Food boxes will be given to students once each month, she said. The program is voluntary and open to any students in those schools. The boxes will range from 10 to 12 pounds and will include a mix of perishable and nonperishable food items.
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About 90 percent of Park Middle School's 850 students receive free or reduced lunch, said Principal Kevin Pierce. Each year, that rate has risen 3 percent to 4 percent, he said.
The school has offered informal help to its families, including a toy drive and canned food drives where the school families could then come and pick up food, Pierce said.
"The need became too much for us to really handle," he said.
On Tuesday night, food boxes will be available for families as part of the school's reading, math and literacy night, Pierce said.
River's Edge High School students will receive their first chance at food assistance today.
Principal Dan Chubb of River's Edge High School said his school was willing to participate because children need to eat in order to learn.
"Being hungry is not going to help a student be successful in school," he said.
River's Edge has about 285 students who participate in its direct instruction and independent learning programs, Chubb said.
As of May 2011, about 40 percent of its students received free or reduced lunch, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
This is the first time Second Harvest Tri-Cities has offered food distribution to middle and high school students, Kilgore said. Project Backpack, a grant funded program that ended about two years ago, was for elementary students only.
Second Harvest Tri-Cities estimates the ConAgra Foods Foundation Nourish Our Community Grant will help provide food for more than 37,500 meals. That should keep the program going through this school year.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org