Cambridge Elementary parent helps keep students fed on weekends

Thousands of students in South Texas area go hungry every weekend

120,000 San Antonio children are without food on the weekends, but Pam Colbert is doing what she can to change that.
120,000 San Antonio children are without food on the weekends, but Pam Colbert is doing what she can to change that.

SAN ANTONIO – According to statistics, many children in San Antonio are underfed or go hungry on weekends.
Free or reduced lunch programs are often only enough to get students through a school week.
"We didn't have much to eat at my house this weekend, and I'm still hungry," recited parent Pam Colbert, recalling what a young student told her in a Cambridge Elementary hallway.
Those words stuck with Colbert and she decided to do something about it.
"I thought it would be really naive of me to think that this was the only child at Cambridge Elementary that might be in those circumstances."
In a back room at the school, Colbert now spends her time with other volunteers packing grocery sacks full of healthy snacks meant to get a child and their siblings through a weekend.  Money for the food is donated by four local churches.
"It's something that runs under the radar," Colbert said.
Discretely, the snacks are distributed by teachers to students who need them every Friday.  Currently, 45 students at Cambridge Elementary, located in Alamo Heights, are part of the program which requires parent consent.
The San Antonio Food Bank runs a similar, much larger operation.  The Food Bank, however, targets lower-income schools where food is most severely needed.  That leaves schools like Cambridge Elementary in need of volunteers like Colbert to fill the gap.
So far, school officials say Colbert's effort is making a difference, including in the classroom.
"The most important thing you have to do at school is learn," said Cambridge Elementary counselor Lauren Boyer. "Well, if your tummy's grumbling, there's not a lot you can focus on."
The students are now more alert, attendance has increased and grades have come up.
Meanwhile, there is also citywide concern about keeping students fed over the Christmas break.  It's an issue the Food Bank hopes to solve with food-filled backpacks.
"About 16,000 holiday bags or holiday backpacks were packed and will be going out to many schools throughout San Antonio to help bridge the two-week gap," said San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper.
The backpacks are expected to be distributed Tuesday night.

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