Posted: September 23, 2014

From Grassroots to Global

National coverage of Comanche's food backpack program has garnered support from as far away as Dubai.

Watch the NBC News story on Comanche's backpack food program. 

What started as a grassroots effort to make sure kids at Comanche Elementary School didn't go hungry over the weekend has gained national -- even international -- support to the amazement of the program's architect.

When first-grade teacher Marvin Callahan realized last year that some of his students didn't have enough to eat during weekends, he asked Comanche teachers and staff to help out. They were more than willing, digging deep to donate food for a weekend backpack program. But when the food was about to run out in December, Callahan decided to seek community support as well.

He asked Channel 4 TV personality Steve Stucker to use his social media connections to help get the word out. Stucker did one better -- he got the station to do a story on the backpack program. That story got the attention of network executives and national news correspondent Chelsea Clinton, who visited the school in May. Her story ran on NBC Nightly News a few weeks ago.

The response has been overwhelming, said Callahan and school counselor Karin Medina, whose room now houses three cabinets full of food. Nearly $15,000 has been donated to the program since the story ran, including the promise of a monthly $100 contribution from a man working in Dubai.

In addition, local support has increased. Callahan said the program has received donations from Albuquerque churches and a Boy Scout troop, and a local business is discussing partnering with the school to make sure no students ever go hungry.

"This is absolutely God given. It's a gift," Callahan said of the response. "Really, from our hearts, thank you." Callahan said.

Callahan, who's been teaching for 21 years, said he now wants to pay if forward by helping other schools interested in starting a weekend food program. He said Comanche can help get such a program off the ground, but they'll need the commitment of the school staff and community to keep the it sustainable.

"We can help get it started, but they have to make it work," he said.