Food for Thought: Hunger shouldn’t be going to school
Splash Guest Column
On behalf of the Food for Thought program, I would like to thank Josh Johnson, the staff of The Splash and all of the Splash readers who donated to the 12 Meals of Christmas drive. As a result of the drive, I was able to deliver $1,698 to the Spokane Valley Partners food bank earlier this month. They were delighted and also send their appreciation.
The program started three years ago serving three students at one school. We are currently packing food for 108 students at 10 schools, with participation ranging from kindergarten through high school. There are 22 schools in the Central Valley School District, so we could easily double our current totals. We have been expanding the program as our resources allow and will continue to do so in the future. We hope to eventually reach all of the students in the greater Valley area that are in need of food assistance.
We work directly with the principals, counselors and teachers at the various schools, with overall coordination through the director of special programs at the district office. The schools can then select the students to be included based on the knowledge and experience of the staff.
Hunger and homelessness have been, until recently, "stealth" issues in the Valley communities, but the problems are very real. At the end of the last school year, the CVSD identified more than 475 students as homeless. The East Valley and West Valley districts had similar numbers in proportion to their student populations. The totals are expected to be even higher this year, which means that there will be 750-800 homeless school children living in the three school districts by this summer. Some of these students are doubled up with relatives, friends and acquaintances. Some are not, and some are, unfortunately, considered "unaccompanied" and are couch-surfing or, in some cases, living on the street.
Food for Thought provides food for the weekend, when they do not have access to the free or reduced breakfasts and lunches at their schools. Regardless of the reasons behind their current circumstances, our goal is to hand a weekend food pack to every child in need of one.
All of our food comes from the Spokane Valley Partners food bank at no cost to us. SVP, along with Advent Lutheran Church, the Kiwanis Club of Liberty Lake and Barker High School, have been indispensable in growing the program. Everyone can help by making food or cash donations to SVP, or, more importantly, donating some time to help at the food bank. They depend on their volunteers to keep the shelves stocked.
Once again, I want to thank all of the Splash readers who are helping to keep the Food for Thought program alive and well.
Pat Dockrey is a longtime Liberty Lake resident, member of the Liberty Lake Kiwanis and board member of Spokane Valley Partners. He is the founder of Food for Thought.