Here’s how one school is helping to feed families in their community–and teaching students about compassion and service to others. This might work in your school too!
I have a very inspiring friend. She’s a special education teacher at an elementary school and the most giving person I know. Several years ago, she and the principal were brainstorming ways to help school families who they knew needed food assistance. They created a school program called Feed A Friend and made it a service project for the third grade class each year to help fight hunger.
Once a month, school families who need extra help get one or two bags full of donated food that includes both fresh and shelf-stable items. Feed A Friend helps 8-12 families per year, who either ask to be part of the program or respond to a letter sent home inquiring about interest.
Everyone in the school community pitches in to supply the food, and the school’s PTA donates fresh fruit and bread each month. Some months, they also receive food donations from neighbors and businesses in the community. Here is the flyer that goes home to school families:
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Here’s how it works: School families are asked to donate food items on the third Thursday of the month (they purposely chose the end of the month because it’s a time when families who depend on assistance such as SNAP benefits may be running low). Teachers and students sort the food onto tables in a classroom into categories such as cereal, canned vegetables, and dry pasta and sauce. Then students help pack the food into paper or reusable grocery bags.
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On the day I visited, the bags included canned vegetables, peanut butter, jelly, canned soup and milk, dry pasta, pasta sauce, granola bars and crackers, bread, and a large bag of apples. A family that mostly cooks from scratch also received flour and salt. Some families had miscellaneous items like shampoo, paper towels, and laundry detergent placed in their bags.
Feed A Friend is designed to be stigma-free. “We decided to have zero taboo around the food,” says my friend. “We don’t hide the bags or hide the name labels on them. We talk to the students about what different kinds of help looks like, and about how needing help with food is a normal thing to have happen.”
Feed A Friend not only teaches the students about the importance of service to others but also about compassion–and that it’s okay to need help and get help. “The kids get to think about what they have, about helping their friends who need some support. They get to learn about what it means to help other people and that accepting help from other people is a normal part of life,” she says. I asked the third graders what they enjoyed about being part of the Feed A Friend program, and they said things such as, “I like helping the families” and “I believe that no kid should go hungry.”
Once the bags are packed, the children help load them onto carts and deliver them to various teachers and staff members, who personally deliver them to the families’ homes. The volunteers are celebrated and thanked at a breakfast at the end of the school year.
“We want to make sure all of our families are well taken care of and have what they need,” says my friend. “If we can be any part of helping with that, then that’s very satisfying.”
The sad reality is that today in America, one in six children face hunger–and 51 percent of public school children live in poverty. If this program sounds like something that might work in your child’s school to help fight hunger, I hope this post gives you the inspiration and information you need. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, and I will do my best to get them answered for you!