Burke County HS wins state championship overcoming hunger

Burke County, Georgia is home to the AAA State Champion Burke County High School Bears, who overcame not only opponents on the field, but crushing poverty and physical hunger. Coach Eric Parker attributes much of the team’s success to the federally-funded Healthy Hunger-Free Kids program, which helps feeds 500 students at the cost of $3 per meal.

Burke County’s trailed by two touchdowns at the half, but took over in the third quarter.

Burke took control of the game midway through the third period, moving 79 yards in eight plays and scoring the equalizer on Green’s 35-yard run and Mayton’s two-point run.

The Bears pulled ahead on Mayton’s 1-yard run with 21 seconds left in the third period, and Green’s 13-yarder put the game away at the 2:48 mark in the fourth.

Before Burke County instituted the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids program, such a victory would have been unthinkable for a team whose players were weakened by chronic malnutrition.

Seventeen-year-old defensive lineman Jessie Bush remembers how different things were just four years ago. “A lot of people – they was hungry, tired, and sleepy sometimes.”

Those were signs that his coach Eric Parker recognized as the dangerous symptoms of dehydration and malnutrition.

“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,” Parker said.

The idea that some students might be going to school or practice hungry probably wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Burke County, Georgia – one of the poorest counties in the country – where 48 percent of kids live below the poverty line.

Coach Parker knew the school needed to do something. So he met with Donna Martin – the school nutritionist. Martin said Parker told her, “Our kids need more calories – they’re falling out by the end of the fourth quarter and we need more calories – what can we do? Wouldn’t it be great if we could feed them supper?”

“I’m not going to cut the nutrition program and what it did for us short at all,” Parker said. “I thought it was a big part of our success.” He added there’s “no doubt” the nutrition program played a part in the big win. It gave them a sweet victory on and off the field.

Good people can disagree over the role of the federal government in feeding the poor, but I believe we each have a personal duty to help our neighbor.

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40

Whether you agree or disagree that this is a role to be performed by government, this is a time of year to consider how you can help feed someone else.


  1. CobbGOPer says:

    Completely agree. It’s a travesty that we have kids in this state who are so under-fed that they’re falling asleep in class, or too tired to participate in football. The government program did its’ job, and well I think, but we as a state and a community need to do more for our neighbors still suffering through this Great Recession.

  2. seekingtounderstand says:

    Someone is making alot of money off food programs and its not the hungry people……notice in the gorcery store the items available for WIC or SNAP are usually the most expensive and never on sale. Like the juice section at ingles, WIC Juice was $5.89 half gallon, but the juice I bought was $2.85 plus you could use coupons…………….go look at the cheese section. WIC monzarella cheese was twice the price as what I chose to buy, they are also limited to certain sizes.

    This is not an good way to help those that need food………….but it does help someone profit off us taxpayers to the point of a gun.

  3. And I have to once again state that the AAAA state football champion team is my alma mater, the Tucker Tigers.

    We have MATTHEWS CAFETERIA in Tucker ( http://bit.ly/v9Jhks ), and have had it for decades. So good that if you simply type Matthews cafeteria into Google, this tinytown restaurant comes up first link in searches. No one leaves Mathews Cafeteria hungry. It’s like a one-shop-shop for ending hunger with Southern food.

  4. saltycracker says:

    Cut the below from an earlier post but it might be applicable tradeoff source if we want to fund a safety net. We might also do some work on the abuses in the food stamp program. Our legislators might also be too focused on those who can gain in the AG business.

    By a vote of 85 to 14 in Oct., the Senate approved an amendment to a 2012 spending bill that ends direct payments to farmers with annual incomes exceeding $1 million. Two of the 14 nays were Saxby & Isakson.

    Through good times & bad the big boys get the subsidy bucks, so go figure when record prices are being received.

    Here’s some stats on Georgia’s $6 billion in subsidies between ’95 & 2010:

    •70 percent of farmers in Georgia did not collect subsidy payments – according to USDA.
    •Ten percent collected 82 percent of all subsidies.
    •Amounting to $4.32 billion over 16 years.
    •Top 10%: $34,246 average per year between 1995 and 2010.
    •Bottom 80%: $459 average per year between 1995 and 2010.


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