'If they're not fed and they're hungry, they're not going to perform as well'
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- In Springfield Public Schools, 63 percent of students are on free or reduced lunches. Guy Lee Elementary School has one of the highest numbers with 87 percent of students receiving this help.
Oregon has the highest rate of child hunger in the nation, according to state and federal statistics. Around 30 percent of children in Oregon are food insecure. In Lane County, 53 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches.
Guy Lee Elementary School has made it their mission to fight hunger and provide their students and families support. Over the past few years, the school has partnered with several organizations including Food For Lane County with food assistance programs.
They provide free or reduced breakfast for students, a snack pack program at the end of the week so kids can go home with food for the weekend, and a mobile food pantry from Food For Lane County comes to the school once per month.
"If they're not fed and they're hungry, they're not going to perform as well," said principal Nicki Gorham. "They're not going to learn as much as they would if they came to school ready."
Julie Meehan is the Family Center Coordinator at Guy Lee Elementary School. She is the liason between students, families, the school and organizations that partner with the school for food assistance. She says over the past five years, she has seen an increase of working class families needing help.
"They do a really good job trying to provide for their family, but by the end of the month they need that little extra help," said Meehan.
"It's the people that are really, really working hard to provide and it's tough. It's hard right now," she said.
The school has taken on hunger as a major issue - and they say it's a partnership through volunteers, teachers, district support and parents. "There isn't anything more satisfying that to know that a child is being fed and is able to learn and is able to eat," said Gorham.