Earlier this year, ShareNet was contacted by a teacher with this note:
“My name is Spenncer Isom and I teach second grade at Suquamish Elementary. My students have decided to raise money for a charity this year and the charity they have chosen is ShareNet. I love the fact that these sweet 7- to 8-year- olds want to raise money to give back to the local community.”
We do too.
Specifically, the students wanted to learn more about our backpack program Food to Grow On, or F2GO. With some research, they found out that ShareNet serves about 100 children every scheduled week of the school year at all four Kingston public schools, as well as the PAL program and Wolfle Elementary’s summer session.
On March 28, two of our four F2GO program volunteers, Bettie Armstrong and Linda Hell, accompanied me to Suquamish Elementary School. When we walked in, the class was sitting in a hushed circle around Ms. Isom at the front of the room. This class may have its rowdy moments, but they were very polite for our visit.
Our first task at these school visits is to find out what they already know about food banks and backpack programs. Just as when we visited Gordon Elementary School and Kingston Middle School, it turns out the students knew quite a lot about the subject. I’m always impressed to what degree our local schools seem to be stressing kindness, thoughtfulness, and social awareness. It seems like a huge advance from the atmosphere that prevailed when I was in public school.
The students appeared to have a clear understanding of what we did, why we did it, and who we helped. It was clear they were enthusiastic; Isom’s second-grade class at Suquamish Elementary definitely takes the prize for being the most interactive and having great questions.
It’s amazing to see how the personalities of second-graders are already formed. Sometimes, a larger class can seem like a blur of students. But these students were very much individuals, each with their own way of expressing themselves. We received a lot of great questions about some of the details of our operation, such as how many, where, and what went into our food packs.
This was time for Linda Hell and Bettie to take over, discussing pack ingredients, health guidelines, and how we pack. Then, students helped us make some sample packs.
We had some questions for them too.
Given everything they have to carry these days, was the food pack too heavy? One student thought it was a bit too heavy, while another didn’t.
Did they like the ingredients? We got a ringing endorsement on that one; our intent has always been to balance nutrition and portability with items students will actually eat and enjoy.
We also wanted to know if they had any suggestions for new items in the pack. They sure did, and my favorite suggestion was pears, which we’ve not previously included.
It was great to have Linda and Bettie with me this time. Two other volunteers instrumental to F2GO not with us that day were Jerry Ulsund and Gene Borgomanerio. Linda has been with the program since its inception six years ago, and Jerry soon after. Without the dedication of Linda and Jerry and their assistants, this program would not be the vital community force it is today.
The parallel Kiwanis-Rotary effort Food for Kids, working with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, built on our program to offer the same packs during our off-times, when school is out. We continue to work together on infrastructure and ordering.
At a recent meeting, I learned their cost for providing food for kids during Christmas and spring breaks and the balance of the summer, after we complete Wolfle’s summer session, is around $24,000 annually — funded by community support of these service clubs.
Chronically underfunded, our F2GO program does a lot with a little, making a difference in the lives of many schoolchildren in the area throughout the school year. Our focus for Kitsap’s Great Give on May 2 will be on F2GO finishing the school year strong and having enough for Wolfe’s summer session (www.kitsapgreatgive.org/npo/ sharenet).
We truly appreciated the opportunity of visiting Isom’s second-graders. Next up, the students will visit ShareNet onsite to help us out on packing day.
— Mark Ince is executive director of ShareNet. Contact him at sharenet firstname.lastname@example.org.