There are plastic bins holding bags full of snacks in Principal Molly Carolan’s office at Opportunity Elementary School in the Central Valley School District. Some of the bags contain Cup-o-Noodles, Gatorade and snack bars. Some contain fruit leather and hot chocolate.
Most of the items are pretty healthy, but some of them are treats that kids would like.
The snacks aren’t for all of the students. Volunteer Terri Crum, 51, buys them, puts seven or eight items into freezer bags and delivers them to the school once a week. The school distributes the bags Friday afternoons to the 40 homeless students at the school.
Carolan said when people hear the term homeless, they assume the students are living on the streets, but that isn’t always the case.
According to Central Valley’s Homeless Education and Resource Team, most at-risk students live with other family members or in someone else’s home. Of the 355 homeless students in the district, 329 of them live with another family. Some of the rest live in shelters, hotels or motels, and some are listed as unsheltered. Some of them live in foster homes.
The snacks Crum puts together help the students get through the weekends, when they may not have anything else to eat.
Crum first heard about assembling the snacks through her church three years ago. Since then, she has taken the project on by herself, and pays for the snacks out of her own pocket.
“It feels like such a small thing I can do for the community,” Crum said.
She doesn’t keep track of how much she spends on the snacks. She asks her children, ages 16 and 19, if they feel like a particular snack would be something the students would like.
While she’s assembling the snacks, she said she thinks about the students and prays for them, even though she has never met them and doesn’t know their names.
“It breaks my heart that there is even one child that needs this,” Crum said.
Parents of the students were sent a note at the beginning of the year to let them know the snacks would be coming home with their children.
Each Friday, school secretary Cindy Noll sends notes to remind the students to visit Carolan’s office. Carolan said the students line up, she and Noll, stuff the snacks into their backpacks and send the students on their way.
“They don’t even get to look at the bag,” Carolan said.
The principal also said she has heard back from the students about how much they appreciate the snacks.
“It makes them feel safe,” Carolan said. “They want to be here and learn.”
Crum’s snacks have made a difference with the students, although Carolan said Crum doesn’t want any credit for what she does.
“I hope that they like it and think that people care about them,” Crum said.