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Issaquah firefighters work to extinguish hunger at local school

ISSAQUAH, Wash. - There's a group of firefighters on the east side who are jumping into action to extinguish hunger.

Eastside Fire and Rescue rolls up to Issaquah Valley Elementary school in their red engine and a parade of firefighters gets out, each bearing boxes of food. The delivery may seem trivial - boxes of granola bars and bags of string cheese - but each snack is huge in the eyes of a child whose stomach is growling all morning.

"You know you can't learn if you're hungry, and we want to give kids a fair shot at learning," said Capt. Russ Tanner.

Tanner discovered the need while reading to students at Issaquah Valley school. He noticed that some kids had trouble concentrating, and a teacher told him it's hard to concentrate when you're hungry.

Currently, three out of every 10 kids in this school of 650 are on free or reduced lunch - but there's no breakfast plan for them.

Capt. Tanner decided to do something about that, so he went back to Eastside Fire and Rescue, and now they're using money from their benevolent fund to keep students fueled for a day of learning.

Now, each morning, the lunch ladies set out milk, string cheese, yogurt and granola bars. Students who need breakfast are free to stop by and grab something on their way into their classrooms.

So far, just 15 to 20 students are taking advantage of the free breakfast - even though Eastside Fire is providing enough for food for double that number every day.

"I feel like there's still a group of kids we aren't serving because it is kind of a 'Hey, look, I didn't get my breakfast kind of thing,'" said third-grade teacher Rebecca Posten.

"As a firefighter you see the other society there is in the world, the way we want it to be and the way it is and the reality is that there are children out there who come from food insecure homes," says Capt. Tanner.

The free breakfast program started in January, and Posten said she and her fellow teachers have already seen a difference a small meal can make in a child's education.

"Their behavior problems are down. Kids are calmer - they're ready to learn. You know, we can't give a statistical, you know, test scores are up or anything, but my colleagues and I have seen a huge difference with a group of kids and they're just - they're happier," said Posten.

Eastside Fire is spending about $240 a month on this food - they've got enough in their budget to run through June, but they want it to go long term, so now they're {<}a href="http://esfbf.org/donate/" target="_blank"{>}asking for donations {<}/a{>} to make that happen.

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