Food for Thought gives meals to students in need
As a student in the School to Life program at Barker High School, Jackie Greer is able to help others in the community.
Greer and her classmates sort and prepare 37 weekend food bags every Thursday for Spokane Valley Partners’ Food for Thought program, to benefit needy students.
“They don’t have food,” said Greer, 19. “We help them so they do get food.”
Each bag contains two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, milk and various snacks to fill a gap for students involved in the Central Valley School District’s Homeless Education and Resource Team program.
Barker’s School to Life program helps special needs students make the transition from high school to adulthood.
“We definitely want this to be a long relationship,” Barker High School Principal Kerri Ames said about School to Life assisting in Food for Thought. “We want kids to be involved in the community and helping others.”
Barker senior Jacob Tuter, 18, relies on the program weekly.
“If it wasn’t for the food that I get on weekends, I would be eating only at school,” Tuter said. “Those food bags do a lot. I’m always thankful for them.”
Administrated through Spokane Valley Partners, Food for Thought serves an average of 180 students a week ranging from preschool through high school students at 12 Central Valley schools. Last year, the program distributed more than 4,000 weekend food bags.
Food for Thought relies on a combination of food and monetary donations, and grants.
Food for Thought founder Pat Dockrey hopes to establish a long-term funding mechanism for the program. This spring he launched Adopt a Student, which asks community members to “adopt” a student for $125 a year, enough to pay for about half the cost of one student’s weekend food for a year.
“I hope the Adopt a Student program will catch on,” Leslie Camden-Goold, the district’s homeless liaison said. “It’s a great way to know you’re making a difference.”
Through implementing Adopt a Student, Dockrey hopes to expand the program.
In the Valley, it’s estimated that more than 800 students are homeless, including about 450 in Central Valley.
Although some live on the street, a majority of these children end up as temporary guests with relatives or friends but have no permanent home.
“I’ve seen the number of homeless grow every year,” Camden-Goold said. She anticipates the number of homeless students continuing to grow, she said.
Most of those students depend on free breakfast and lunch programs provided by the schools. When away from school, many don’t have a dependable food source.
“I think there is a lot of need in the Valley that nobody knows about,” Dockrey said. “We could serve all the kids that need it. I would like to be able to do that.”
Dockrey’s expansion plans include serving students throughout the Valley by reaching out to the West Valley and East Valley school districts. Students receiving the weekend bags are identified through their involvement in the HEART program.
Currently Barker High School is one of three distribution points for the Food for Thought program. Volunteers from Spokane Valley Baptist, Spokane Valley Seventh-day Adventist and Advent Lutheran also assemble food bags.
“This turned out to be a good fit for School to Life,” special education teacher Rusty Lee said of the students filling the weekend bags. “We want to expand it.”