ALBUQUERQUE, NM, First grade teacher Marvin Callahan recalls the struggle of growing up without much money. He remembers having to bring in his tuition in a little envelope to his school every month since his family was only able to pay fraction of the full price.
“I remember this distinctly… The tuition was $29 per month, and my mom would send $1, or $3, or $4, whatever she had,” Callahan tells The Huffington Post.
In 21 years of teaching career, Callahan has seen too many children coming to school hungry.
“I look into my kids’ eyes, and I can see that sadness and apprehension, and the discomfort of not being their powerful, strong, engaging little selves,” he says.
This has been an issue of mounting concern across the state of New Mexico. For the past two (2) years, New Mexico has ranked number one (1) in the US in childhood hunger with a third of children growing up without a consistent food supply. According to NBC News report, 6,000 out of 87,000 children enrolled in Albuquerque Public schools are homeless. While 60 percent of students at Comanche Elementary, where Callahan works, qualify for the federal free or reduced-priced lunch program.
This issue has pushed Callahan to help his students. Every day before starting his lesson he will ask his students if they’ve eaten breakfast and if they haven’t, he sends them to the cafeteria for a meal which he paid using money from his own pocket. He also started stacking his classroom with snacks on regular basis.
Callahan, with the help of school counselor, Karin Medina, also started a backpack program where kids from 25 families get meals and two snacks to take home every Friday.
The Comanche backpack program is not an official nonprofit, nor does it have any outside funding. The program doesn’t even have a name. Even without a name, it serves as an example of community generosity, which has others aiding it. In fact, because of the program they started, now, local business brings by boxes of food weekly, and a Boy Scout troop has donated money twice this year.