by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Bonnie Marston, from GracePointe Church, and Evan King, social worker at Rowe Middle School, wait outside a classroom door as they prepare to hand out afternoon snacks.
does not want to see one student go hungry.
Fortunately, she is in the position to do something about it at Rowe Middle School in Milwaukie, where she is the school social worker.
“I meet with kids all day, and I’ve always had snacks on my desk.
Then the last few years I started to notice a lot of kids coming to school hungry.
I’d start handing out string cheese, and then there was a long line of kids coming back for it,” King
Reacting to the fact that 80 percent of the Rowe student body is on the free breakfast/reduced lunch program, the school district started a free breakfast program for every student in the school, and “that made a tremendous difference in our kids,” she said, but come late afternoon, the kids were hungry again.
Some students eat lunch at noon, but then stay in class until 4 p.m., and teachers noticed that many students were simply having trouble staying focused.
At the same time, King realized that standing at the door to her office handing out snacks was just not practical, so last year she came up with the idea to start an afternoon snack program, which she calls Ending School-Time Hunger at Rowe Middle School.
Soon a group of 30 to 40 volunteers from GracePointe Church in Milwaukie came on board, and King started to meet her goal of having a snack for every student between 2 and 3 p.m.
“Last year, the Clackamas Rotary Club
was involved with us after school, and they asked me what we needed.
I said, I need to not have hungry kids at school,” King
said, noting that now both the Clackamas and Milwaukie Rotary Clubs are providing financial support for the snack program.
“It made a huge difference to our afternoon classes, the kids were able to stay focused,” she
One teacher reported that in his
last afternoon class, once a high-protein snack had been consumed at the beginning of the period, the students produced more work than he
had ever seen before, King
And then there was “James,” a student King described as one of her “frequent fliers,” in that she saw him almost every day, when he skipped his classes.
“He was always in trouble, because he
could not stay focused in class.
I had snacks in my office, so he
was in there two to three times a day,” she
just gave him a box of granola bars he
could keep in his
But then he
came back asking for more, and when she
questioned him, he
had taken them home for his
It turned out there were some problems at home, so King
mother and sorted out the food situation there.
started having regular meals, including a late afternoon snack, the young man turned himself around and settled down, King
King noted that Clackamas Rotary Club member Bill Stewart sees the snack program as “a diversion program to keep kids in school.”
The GracePointe volunteers became involved when it was clear that the elementary school Backpack Buddy program they run was just not working for middle schoolers, who think they are too cool to carry backpacks of food home over the weekend, King
People can help by contacting King
at Rowe and she
will tell them exactly what she
said it would be best to contact her
, as refrigerator space is limited, and she
is afraid people might drop off food items that cannot be used.
Cash donations would be best, as she
could then give the money to the shoppers from GracePointe
who have the technique down to a fine science, she
Other sponsors are Bob’s Red Mill and Clif Bars
, but King
really needs to see more community involvement.
“We are grateful to our community partners and to the staff for helping us take care of the needs of each of our youth, but we welcome additional support — as of today, we are about $8,000 short of our goal,” she
also gathers new and gently used school supplies, and can always use more of those, too.
added, “Hungry kids can’t learn; kids without school supplies can’t learn.”