Lee Middle School eighth-grader Jonathan Lopez helped distribute food from a Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry truck recently to Godfrey-Lee Public Schools families.
“Some people don’t have enough food and most get paid minimum wage so they need help,” said Jonathan, a National Junior Honor Society member, of families in his school who struggle to make ends meet. “I like to help because I feel good when I help people.”
Bringing food to families in need involved a district-wide effort started by Godfrey-Lee teachers who paid for the mobile food pantry to bring fresh produce, dairy products, bread and other food to help families over Spring Break. The truck came a week before break to help alleviate the stress of food costs while children were home from school.
|The Burden of Poverty: A Backpack of Heartache is a continuing series on poverty in the schools and how it affects students’ learning. We will examine not only the problems poverty creates for students and their families, but the schools and strategies that are helping disadvantaged students succeed.|
After participating in the Hunger Walk in October, teachers in the Godfrey-Lee Education Association were inspired to take an extra step to help feed families on-site. They brought a truck to Lee High School, feeding 125 to 150 families with 5,000 pounds of food, said Michael Donovan, eighth-grade history teacher. Students like Jonathan helped out during distribution.
Teachers paid $5 to wear jeans to school for several days, netting a total of about $700 to pay the $495 fee for the food truck. They are using the rest of the money to partner with Lee Street Christian Reformed Church to bring the pantry again in late May. Donovan said it was the first of many trucks staff members will work to bring to the community.
A District with High Need
Luis Hidalgo, a Hispanic mother of four who waited in line to receive food, said the price of groceries is too steep for her budget. At times she must rely on pantries.
“This food truck service helps a lot,” Hidalgo said, with Jonathan translating. “Everything is good. When the kids are home (during the school day) they eat more.”
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is the poorest district in Kent County. Ninety-five percent of students receive free or reduced-cost lunch. They also eat breakfast at school, and elementary students receive sack suppers from Kids’ Food Basket, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit. In the square-mile, mostly Hispanic community, 38 percent of people live in households below the poverty line.
“We have several students who eat three meals a day at school. Now, they will be at home for a week,” Donovan said before Spring Break. “We want to make sure their cupboards and fridges are stocked.”
“There are needs in the district we need to meet,” he added, “and this is the least we can do.”
Feeding America West Michigan