Seventh-grade students at KIPP Prime College Preparatory are reveling in the true meaning of the holiday season after distributing food for the Houston Food Bank’s mobile food pantry. Held on the school’s campus Dec. 11, the effort was real-world practice of the KIPP Texas social emotional learning curriculum, which emphasizes social awareness and empathy.
“Our students have embraced the value of what it means to give back during the holiday season. So we want them to know, that giving is just as important as receiving,” Jotina Buck MAC, LCDC-I, a KIPP Prime School Counselor.
Students fully embraced the program, distributing food and carrying groceries to recipients’ cards. “I think the food pantry is extremely helpful to all of those in this community and those who need additional assistance with food. I feel proud to volunteer and help those in need,” said Jes Schoubroek, a 7th grade KIPP Prime student volunteer.
Another added. “My parents taught me to help elderly people, and it feels nice to be able to help them and give back,” Omar Infante, also a 7th grader.
In November, more than 300 families received benefits from the mobile food pantry; 60% of the recipients are KIPP Texas families and 40% are community residents. “The students are serving their families as well so it’s good for them to see that while they’re giving, they’re also receiving as well,” Buck said.
All students on the KIPP Prime campus receive free breakfast and lunch daily.
A Kinder Institute report found that 724,750 food-insecure individuals live in the Greater Houston area. This volunteer project aims to help reduce the stigma associated with hunger and food insecurity. Food insecurity can sometimes mean choosing between paying rent or medical bills, and buying groceries. It means a families’ food stamps run out mid-month or when a package of ramen noodles is the only meal for the day.
Although parents try to protect teens from hunger and from bearing responsibility for providing for themselves or others, teens in food-insecure families routinely take on this role. They often skip meals to provide food for their younger siblings.
Lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school, and is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence. Few struggling with food insecurity wish to be identified, fearing the shame and ridicule that comes with poverty, and having less.
Recent changes in the federal food safety net means efforts like this are even more critical to the health and safety of our children and families. “Many of our families are forced to stretch already-thin budgets to make ends meet, Buck added. “The students 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.”