An article in the local newspaper detailed the food insecurity issues facing our community's schools and many of their students. The Good Food Store's management team and board of directors began discussing how we might be able to help and initiated discussions with staff at Franklin Elementary School, our neighborhood school and one of the most acutely affected schools in Missoula's public school system. Concerns that we needed to address included making sure we were careful not to stigmatize those students most in need and the necessity of creating a program that would be sustainable for the long haul. Our visits to the school confirmed the students’ needs and though we knew our efforts could only begin to address a problem of such magnitude, we were spurred to get to work. After much discussion about how we might be able to help, we began delivering two bags of groceries to each student at the school, one bag in the spring and one in the fall. We deliver the bags to one classroom each week and do a very short interactive presentation with the kids.
Franklin Elementary School is K-5 school in Missoula, Montana and is comprised of 14 classrooms of approximately 18-25 students each. The Good Food Store delivers a bag of groceries to each classroom, one per week, in both the fall of the year and the spring. Staff involvement includes general planning and administration of the program, food purchasing and storage, stuffing the students' bags, delivery of bags and brief presentation to students.
1. To help address the problem of food insecurity at Franklin Elementary School. 2. To enhance a "good neighbor" relationship with our neighborhood school. 3. To help educate the students about the importance of nutrition and healthy eating. 4. To present positive role models to the students: neighbors excited about sharing with their neighbors. 5. To provide Good Food Store staff an opportunity to contribute to the health of our community. 6. To create a long lasting, sustainable relationship with the families in our neighborhood, whether they shop at the Good Food Store or not.
In the spring of 2012, the Good Food Store delivered bags to just under 300 students, each reuseable bag containing whole wheat bread, pasta, pasta sauce, a two-pound bag of carrots, a can of tuna, peanut butter, jelly and a package of cookies. The retail value of each bag was $28.50. Approximately 70 hours of staff time were devoted to the project in the spring. Numbers associated with this fall's deliveries were very similar -- a few more bags were delivered, but retail value of each bag dropped to $27.10. (Two cans of black beans and an additional can of tuna were substituted for the pasta and pasta sauce this fall.)
Given the magnitude of the food insecurity issues Missoula’s public schools are facing, the help the Good Food Store provides through our Franklin School Nutrition Program can feel fairly insignificant. Yet the feedback we receive from the students, their parents and the school’s staff convinces us that one bag of food really can have an impact for many families. Each week the staff who have made that week’s delivery return with stories that speak to the different ways the program touches the kids. Many are funny stories, thankfully, yet there are enough sad ones to remind us why we initiated the program and to inspire us to try and grow it in the years ahead. It really is a win-win situation – our neighborhood kids get something nutritious to eat and we get some unforgettable hugs and high-fives.