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1 out of 4 kids at risk of going hungry in Aiken County

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More than half of all children in Aiken County are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and parents say they're struggling to put food on the table at home. (March 8, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock/March 8, 2011

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.---One out of every four kids are at risk of going hungry in Aiken County. The problem is that many kids have breakfast and lunch at school, but when they come home there may not be anything for them to eat. A lot of parents aren't just having trouble paying the bills. They're having trouble putting food on the table. Now County leaders want to do something about it.

Tiffany Bowie is a single mom and has four kids so she's grateful for any help. She thrilled her kids get two free meals at school. "They're here early enough for breakfast and it's a huge help," she says. More than half of kids in Aiken County are eligible for free or reduced lunch which helps a lot of struggling parents make ends meet. "Groceries are a lot because I have three growing boys...and one little girl," she says. The working mom saves $85 dollars a week. That means more money to keep the kids fed at home, but that's not all. "Rent... my gas bill. I could put that towards my water bill."

Now Leadership Aiken County is working with Golden Harvest to expand a BackPack Program that's already going on at two Aiken County schools. Mike Johnson, who's one of the leaders working on the expansion, says more kids will get non-perishable items that they can put in their backback and take home for the weekend. "For every dollar that's donated, Golden Harvest can turn that into 7 dollars worth of food," he says. Their goal is to add two more schools to the list. They also want to stuff a school bus full of food for the kids. Mike says, "we can stuff that bus 7 times faster for every dollar we get."

Tiffany says this is a great idea because she sees the difference when her kids are well fed. "When they come home they have a lot of energy. They are not sleepy," she says. Leadership Aiken County is taking any type of donation to help fight child hunger. Kristen Sterling says when she goes on field trips with her kids, she can pick out the kids that are not eating well. "It breaks my heart to see them not being fed," she says.

As for Tiffany, she says her kids are able to focus on their schoolwork because they're eating well. And she knows her kids are not alone.

Teachers and parents say it's important to be aware. They say a lot more kids than you might think may be suffering silently. For those who are struggling, it's important to know the programs that are available to you and the sooner you fill out the needed paperwork, the better.

If you want to help, you can sponser a child for $128 a year or $11 dollars a month.
You can call Leadership Aiken County at (803) 439-5002 or (803) 641-2856 or call Golden Harvest Food Bank at (803) 648-0752.
The official website is The "Stuff The Bus To Stop Hunger Festival" is on May 21st at USC-Aiken. It will take place at the Convocation Center.

News 12 is also sponsoring a "Time to Care: Hot and Hungry Drive" which will take place on June 9th.

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