in Woodinville has started a program to help feed homeless students on the Northshore School District.
“Totes-To-Go” is a partnership with Fernwood Elementary School the church started back in January and is hoping to expand to Woodin Elementary and other schools in the district for the next school year. The inspiration to organize the program came from churchmember Kristin Dickert, a former school teacher in the district who was looking for a way to involve the NUCC’s youth group in a community service project.
“The idea is not new, but I thought it would be a way for us to partner with schools and other groups in the community to help end hunger among homeless students here in our district,” Kristin said.
There are about identified as homeless, students who are living with friends, relatives, in shelters or in cars, according to school district officials.
Every Friday homeless students are quietly given backpacks filled with an assortment of child-friendly foods that are nonperishable and easy to consume. The backpacks are returned to school each Monday to be resupplied and redistributed the following Friday.
Fernwood Elementary was chosen as the first school to help because of the need and because Kristin’s husband Lew, is principal at the school.
Lew Dickert said he has already seen positive results from the program. “Student attendance has improved and each of the students we are supporting has increased their efforts in the classroom,” said Dickert. “The effort to provide students from several of my families with a Tote-To-Go has been well worth our time and energy.”
Although donations of money are always appreciated, Kristin said the goal of the program is to partner with other non-profit groups, civic organizations and service groups to adopt a school in the district to help all children identified as homeless. “When people donate food and backpacks, they become more invested in solving the problem than just writing a check.”
The backpacks camoflauge the food inside so the students are in now way identified as homeless by their peers.
“Homelessness seems like an overwhelming problem that can’t be solved,” Kristin said. “But if you just take our school district and look at those 182 kids and feeding them is doable."
With the end of the school year coming June 22, Hopelink, another Eastside non-profit, has a program to feed homeless children through the summer months, for information on the End Summer Hunger program, .
For more information about partnering with a Northshore school to organize a “Totes-To-Go” program, contact Northshore United Church of Christ, (425) 483-6557, or Karen Orsinger, partnerships coordinator for the Northshore School District, (425) 408-7673.
The Northshore School District covers 60 square miles (two-thirds in King County and one-third in Snohomish County) and serves more than19,000 students in Bothell, Kenmore and Woodinville.
If you would like to donate food for the packs, here is the list of the 20 items needed:
• Fruit and Vegetable Juices: in boxes and cans.
• Fruit: in cups and cans.
• Raisins and Other Dried Fruits: in boxes or bags.
• Instant Oatmeal: in single serving packets.
• Dry Cereals: in individual boxes.
• Snack or Meal Bars: breakfast, granola, energy, nutrition and meal supplement varieties
• Peanut Butter: in small jars.
• Jelly: in small jars.
• Crackers: boxes with wrapped rolls or packs (e.g. Ritz) inside and sandwich varieties.
• Meat and Fish (Tuna, Chicken, Ham, Turkey): in cans or vacuum packed bags.
• Soups: in cans, ready to serve bowls and instant cups.
• Macaroni and Cheese: in cans, ready to serve bowls and instant cups.
• Stews: in cans and ready to serve bowls.
• Pasta Meals: in cans and ready to serve bowls.
• Chili: in cans and ready to serve bowls.
• Ramen Noodles: in packages and ready to serve bowls.
• Nuts and Trail Mix
• Assorted Whole Wheat Snacks
• Pudding and Jello: in cups