Jessica: It is a cool story, Scott, about a football team in Georgia that turned around their losing streak by doing something you wouldn’t normally think of. Check this out.
It seemed that half of tiny Burke County turned out to cheer on the Bears. Against the odds, their high school football team had finally made it to the Georgia State Championship. Seventeen-year-old defensive lineman Jessie Bush remembers how different things were four years ago.
Jessie Bush: A lot of people, they were hungry, tired and sleepy sometimes.
Jessica: Signs that his coach, Eric Parker, recognized as the dangerous symptoms of dehydration. And malnutrition, or when you don’t get enough to eat.
Eric Parker: We had kids who, literally, by Tuesday had to be removed from practice because of the intensity and the amount of energy they were having to expend.
Jessica: Parker says players weren’t getting enough food. In Burke County, family income is so low that 85% of students already qualified for free breakfast and lunch in school. But many were going without any other meals at home.
“We’re probably like most small towns in America right now. You know, we’re struggling. So, bringing food home and putting it on the table for a lot of our people, you know, that’s a big deal.”
Jessica: Coach parker knew the school needed to do something. So, he met with the school nutritionist. And he said, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could feed them supper?’
It turned out, after doing some research, they could. Martin applied for federal funding through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. One year later, at the cost of $3 per meal, they provide dinner to 500 lower-income students.
Jessie Bush and Coach Parker says that has paid off on the field.
Jessie: We started getting better, You didn’t hear nobody coming out and saying they were tired or hungry.
Coach Parker: We were finishing games strong. We really had situations where in big games we got stronger as the game went along.
Jessica: Leading the Bears to the biggest game of all, where they won the state championship.
“We’re number one, baby! Number one in the state!”
“I’m not going to cut the nutrition program — and what it did for us — short at all. I thought it was a big part of our success.”
Jessica: Success, on and off the field.