The third-grader stood there with tears in her eyes and her teacher at her side.
“She has something to tell you,” the teacher said to social worker Karen DiSanto, who has worked inside the Park Hill School District for 20 years.
It was a Wednesday last month, and the day had just begun. The girl looked up at DiSanto.
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“I didn’t eat dinner last night,” the young girl told the social worker. “…Just popcorn. We only have popcorn and beans in our house.”
Families across the Kansas City area face similar struggles. In Park Hill, DiSanto has watched the free and reduced-price lunch numbers in her district go from 10 to 12 percent of children two decades ago to more than 40 percent now.
Too often, she says, working parents don’t have much money left for food after paying the bills.
DiSanto knew this third-grader and her family. She’s among the children at the Park Hill school who receive BackSnacks every Friday, and the social worker knew there are also two younger children in the home. She thought about those two also not having enough to eat.
“We will get you home with a BackSnack,” DiSanto told the girl, who this time wouldn’t have to wait until Friday for a BackSnack.
So that night, as well as the next two that week, the girl took home a pack of food that she and the other children ate. They had to eat it cold, because the family’s microwave wasn’t working, but they ate.
After sending home the BackSnacks, DiSanto also did what other social workers across the area do when it comes to children not having enough food at home. She called the girl’s mom.
The family was working through issues with their food stamps, but the main issue was transportation. The mom said the family’s car had been repossessed, and she didn’t have a way to get to the store.
DiSanto shared information about pantries and other food sources.
“And I told her, ‘I can’t do it all the time, but if you get into a bind, and you have nothing in your house, I will come get you and get you to a store,’” DiSanto said.
She also made sure the family got a working microwave.
“BackSnacks mean the world to my kiddos who don’t have food,” DiSanto said.
Feed KC kids
This holiday season, The Star is again partnering with Harvesters on a virtual food drive to raise money for the area’s hungriest children.
All money donated in the KC Challenge: Childhood Hunger goes to Harvesters’ BackSnack program, which provides low-income children with backpacks of food each Friday to tide them over until they return to school Monday.
Star readers have donated more than $800,000 to the program in the past four years. The goal this season: Push the total to $1 million.
If you’d like to give, go to FeedingKCKids.HarvestersVFD.org. You can donate in a loved one’s name, with reader dedications published in The Star’s Christmas edition. The deadline for dedications is 5 p.m. Dec. 21.