A Pleasant Hill woman is on a mission to feed hungry kids in her school district.
Tracey Harrison says it all started when she brought birthday treats to her son's pre-K class at Pleasant Hill Elementary School one day. That simple act has since made a difference for dozens of children and their families.
"It was March of 2011. I had taken extra [treats]. I'm not sure why, but I had taken extra. There were a couple students that kept coming up and asking for more and more. When I finally ran out, that's when they said, is there anything else? We're really hungry. We haven't eaten a lot. So, I went home and cried, " Harrison said.
After some research, Harrison found the community's unemployment rate was higher than the state's and about 42 percent of Pleasant Hill Elementary students received free and reduced lunches. She then found a program called Blessings in a Backpack , out of Tennessee, for children in the same situation. From there, she launched her own program.
"Every Friday, we put a bag together and send it home with each child for the weekend," Harrison said, while gathering together jars of peanut butter and jelly and Ramen noodles.
Last year, Harrison filled bags for 27 students in the school's two pre-K classes. This year, she'll fill bags for about 110 students after expanding the program through third grade. Students will get a bad every week, including holidays and spring break.
"We have a nine week menu. It's different each week, so every week they get a bag, they'll have different food. And at the end of the 9 weeks, it starts back over. And we just keep doing that for the entire year," Harrison said. "It's three dollars a bag per week. So for every child to get a bag every week for the entire year is $120."
That's more than one thousand dollars a year. Harrison says she's received grants from Walmart and Dot Foods and donations from Save-A-Lot, as well as checks from community businesses. But for the first year, she was on her own.
"Tracey takes care of everything. She's absolutely awesome. I don't know how she gets it all done, but she does. It's amazing," Superintendent Ron Edwards said.
Edwards says Harrison's backpack program does not discriminate. All children from pre-K to third grade can take home a bag.
"If you fill out the permission form and say you'd like to have it sent home with your child, we send it. We don't check any income or anything. Income does not always dictate need," Edwards said.
Harrison says she'd eventually like to fill bags for most of the elementary school.