This year the Junior League of Tulsa Inc. (JLT) is partnering with the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to provide monthly community dinners to Hawthorne Elementary and Penn Elementary serving students who are experiencing food insecurity. JLT’s Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma Committee has 17 members and provides one meal a month to each of the two schools it has partnered with, Hawthorne Elementary and Penn Elementary. The members of the Committee deliver and serve over 300 hot and nutritious dinners to students and parents of the schools. The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma prepares the food, and the JLT committee handles event set-up, serves meals, packages up leftovers, and cleans up.
Committee Chair Sarah Walker says, “I’m really excited about our December dinner at Penn Elementary because they are showing the Polar Express in the gym to families after dinner. Each family will not only get a yummy dinner, but they will also receive a special Polar Express care package from the Junior League. It is a lot of fun getting to know the kids and parents and an important way the Junior League of Tulsa is living out its issue statement.”
The Committee sees this program as a great way to engage parents in the school community while also providing a healthy dinner for the entire family. The schools they serve are located in North Tulsa, in the heart of a food desert, and many of these families served are considered under the poverty line. These monthly meals not only provide a healthy option for families to eat that night, but they also are provided leftovers. Teachers and principals at each elementary school attend the dinners and have an opportunity to discuss student welfare with families, provide education and training opportunities, and allow parents and teachers to build critical relationships with each other. Hawthorne Elementary has observed a large increase in PTA meeting attendance by coordinating dinners on the same night. At Penn Elementary, literacy is promoted during meals by giving each family a book to discuss and take home.
Eileen Bradshaw, Executive Director of the Food Bank, states, “We are so happy with this partnership. Sharing a meal together can have a powerful effect on these families and teachers- these dinners build community. We provide the food, but the women of Junior League are the ones that make it happen. I am so grateful for their time and commitment.”
The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is the largest private hunger-relief organization in eastern Oklahoma. It provides food and other donated products to 450 partner programs in 24 counties of eastern Oklahoma. Together the Food Bank provides more than 339,000 meals to hungry Oklahomans each week. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Food Bank distributed more than 21.1 million pounds of food throughout those 24 counties of eastern Oklahoma.
The Food Bank’s Tulsa warehouse, the Donald W. Reynolds Distribution Center, opened in June 2006. It is a 78,000 square-foot facility that can store up to three million pounds of food at any one time.