by Rosemary Mitchell
Community School Director, South Kearns Elementary
For years, Utah has repeatedly been cited as the most generous state in regards to donations and volunteer work. South Kearns Elementary has been fortunate to see this firsthand with organizations, individuals, and companies dedicating both time and money to our school. Working with partners like this is what really changes the odds for Utah’s children. We recognize that we are all in this together-our school can’t thrive without the support of our community!
And, what an incredible community we have!
With a free and reduced lunch rate of nearly 80 percent, we’ve identified food security as a non-academic focus for our school. Not only does eating nutritious meals lead to better learning, it is also tied to higher attendance rates and fewer behavioral issues.
By creating an onsite food pantry, we hope to accomplish three things:
- Support student access to nutritious food outside of school hours
- Identify ways to help families needing extra support
- Foster stronger relationships between parents and the school
Access to food
Students receive breakfast and lunch every school day. But what about dinner once they go home? Or weekends? This is the gap we are hoping to fill by providing an onsite food pantry that parents can access through our family center when they come to pick up students from school.
As part of the process, parents are asked what other support they need. We can help with parenting classes, food stamp applications, English classes, employment support, and healthcare services. Without the food pantry, these conversations may never surface and parents may not access the available services we have to offer. Not only can we help them in that moment by providing temporary relief, but it leads to conversations about real, sustainable support.
Parent engagement is a challenge faced by many schools, including our own. How do we help parents realize they are welcome at school and are a necessary part of their child’s academic success? How do we help them understand that we NEED them in order to be truly successful? We build relationships. We invite them in. We create a space where they feel supported and heard.
In addition to food, our center has winter coats, clothes, shoes, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, backpacks, and school supplies. This would not be possible without an incredibly supportive and generous community.
Our first donation was literally truckloads of supplies from Granite Credit Union. Without their donation of materials and time, our food pantry would not be what it is today.
Our grand opening on November 22nd was a hit! Word spread quickly. We had visitors nearly every day. A true need was being filled and we were meeting our three goals.
Then, momentum really picked up. One of our 2nd graders and his family did a local neighborhood food drive and brought boxes and boxes of goodies! Then, our teachers got involved. They reached out on social media to friends and family who reacted quickly and effectively to fill the gaps. Next, Rocky Mountain Care brought a few more truckloads of supplies, baby items, and winter clothing!
On behalf of our staff here at South Kearns Elementary,
thank you for sharing our vision, investing in our children, and changing the odds!