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Putnam Education Partnership (PEP) Foundation

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Join WCTE’s Get Ready To Learn host Cindy Putman and her special guest Rick Burnett on this week’s radio show. They share about the difference $4.00 can make in a child’s life in Putnam County.

Putman asked questions about Pastor Rick’s role with the Putnam Education Partnership (PEP) Foundation and was surprised to discover all the work being done with the backpack program.

It only costs $4 to feed one child for a weekend. Burnett asks, “Are you willing to let go of that extra coffee, a dessert with lunch, or a little junk food at the grocery store? We are thankful for any amount that you can give, and it is much easier than you might think.”

When children experience food insecurity, they usually do not experience only hunger. It often may be paired with inadequate housing, insufficient healthcare and weakened community and family support. When you see a child who is struggling with hunger, it may mean that there are additional problems that present a multi-faceted challenge.

  • A child not getting enough to eat on a regular basis can delay brain development and the child’s ability to learn. The longer food insecurity continues, the greater chance of cognitive delays.

  • A low level of iron, which is detected in nearly a quarter of low-income children and is a key concern with child hunger in America, is linked with impaired cognitive development.

  • Low-income children that come to school hungry have lower scores on standardized tests than low-income children that arrive at school well fed.

  • When nutrition is improved, the effects of food insecurity can be treated.

The PEP Foundation is based on a non-profit status. We are registered as such with federal and state financial auditors.

The Putnam Education Partnerships Foundation was established in 2007 with an initial focus of assisting classroom teachers with materials and special projects that are not typically covered by classroom budgets. Over the course of the grant program overseen by the PEP board, nearly $12,000 in classroom grants was awarded.

Since that time, there has developed a rapidly growing need in our community. It routinely comes to the attention of teachers, school administrators, and support staff that Putnam County school students are going hungry during weekends, two-week breaks, and summer break. The thought of a hungry child is heartbreaking, but to see the effects it has on a child's ability to learn and focus on school work gave PEP Foundation board members an undeniable drive to support and grow the backpack program already in place by West Putnam Food Ministries.

Pastor Rick Burnett of Crossroads Community Church, who also helped develop the West Putnam program, was elected to the position of president for the PEP Foundation board in 2011. This gave the necessary guidance and expertise to grow the program to what it has since become.

The backpack program now feeds over 1200 students in the Putnam County School System. This includes students from each elementary, middle, and high school in our school system. Students are discretely given small take-home foods that are child-friendly and require no heating or cooling appliances.

To donate to the PEP Foundation, please send your donation to:

Putnam Education Partnerships 1400 E. Spring Street Cookeville, TN 38506

Attention: Cayce McCarver

If you have questions about the PEP Foundation or your donation, contact:

Rick Burnett @ 931-858-5433

Coordinated School Health @ 931-525-4707

All items provided through the PEP Foundation backpack program are supplied by:

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

You can learn more about Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee by visiting their website at