SEATTLE - A lot of Seattle kids are not getting enough food.
More and more kids find their only guaranteed meal at school. Since 2007, the number of Seattle Public Schools elementary students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches has gone from about 8,800 to nearly 10,000, more than a 12 percent increase.
When the weekend hits, many students are left hungry, and a new program in northeast Seattle is stepping in to fill the gap.
The Hunger Intervention Program started at one school last year. Now the small nonprofit feeds 60 children from three schools, and the food enriches more than children's bodies.
Volunteers meet once a month at a Lake City church to pack plastic bags with enough food for six small meals and two snacks.
The food bags are called "Healthy HIP Packs." They contain whole grains, shelf-stable milk, a healthy protein like tuna, and at least two pieces of fresh fruit. They also hold flyers on healthy eating and information on other resources for families in need.
The bags are discreetly slipped into the backpacks of children who need them.
Kate Murphy, the coordinator of the Hunger Intervention Program, told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Frank Field that one grade school child who received a bag was so happy that she took it home to display rather than eat.
"She wanted to hold onto the food and make it last, and she just put it in her cupboard so it looked like they had a lot of food in their cupboard," Murphy said.
"It makes them feel valued and that they're important," said Helen Joung, Olympic Hills Elementary School principal, and "that the school is connected to their families because they get it at the school site."