Feeding Hungry and Homeless Jeffco Kids

You’ve probably seen our recent Face Book post sharing the needs of the Grub Club Food Drive beginning January 9th. https://www.facebook.com/JeffcoGrubClub/photos/a.747890931956645.1073741829.739427476136324/1230567550355645/?type=3&theater

The need in Jeffco is so great, there are several different organizations that participate in a Grub Club or Back Pack program in Jeffco. The Grub Club goal is to meet the needs of Jefferson County students who are categorized as “ homeless or emancipated”. But other programs around Jeffco that run Back Pack programs are through the school year to support and feed Jeffco kids (especially those who may rely on food programs through our public schools during the week, but have nothing to count on over the weekends). We also wondered about summers and holidays and what kind of help is available then.

We want to be sure to recognize all of these organizations and the work they are doing, and we have information on those organizations at the end of this article; but first, let’s take a look at why we need them.

In doing the research, what we found is terribly disturbing.

A recent report on homeless students in Colorado shows the number of students who fit into this category in Jefferson County grew from 717 (in 2004) to 1,731 (in 2013).

Jeffco at 1,731 outnumbered Denver at 1,066.

Kids Count released new Colorado numbers this past November and sadly the state’s homeless student population grew by 600 students to a total of 24,700.

Kids Count:

During the 2014-15 school year, Colorado school districts identified nearly 24,700 students who were homeless, an increase of about 600 students from the previous school year. The number of homeless students in Colorado has skyrocketed since 2006-2007. A student is considered homeless if he or she is living in a homeless shelter, unsheltered, doubled-up in a household with another family due to economic hardship, or living in a hotel, motel or shelter. To find data on the number of homeless students in your county, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center. http://www.coloradokids.org/fast-fact-nov-4-2016/

Dana Scott, CDE’s State Homeless Education Coordinator, worked with Jennifer Brown from the Denver Post on an article illustrating the impacts of homelessness on students’ lives, including their education. The article also provides information on the McKinney-Vento Act and the educational rights of homeless students.

CDE link: http://www.cde.state.co.us/DropoutPrevention/homeless_index.htm

Denver Post: http://extras.denverpost.com/homelessstudents/

Unfortunately, homelessness is not the only issue that plagues so many of our kids in Jeffco. Our Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) rate in Jeffco, the measure by which we determine the Poverty Level of our students is 33%.

That means one-third of our Jeffco students lives in poverty. It’s a difficult fact to wrap your head around when you see all those mini-vans and SUV’s in the student drop-off lane at your school. It’s a condition that exists throughout most of our neighborhood schools – again, let us reiterate, one third (33%) of Jeffco students are on a Free and Reduced Lunch program.

Sadly, detractors of Jeffco Public Schools have unfairly cited the achievement gap in some of our schools where the community is largely lower-income as a measure for how all Jeffco students perform. (After all, it would only make sense that the FRL rate is higher in these neighborhoods.) We’ve heard from those detractors that a child’s socio-economic status should not impact their ability to learn or do well on standardized tests, but when you don’t know where you will sleep at night or if you will even have a dinner that night, studying for school is low on the list of priorities.

In this Business Insider article titled, How parents set their kids up for Success, number 11 on the list is “They have a higher socioeconomic status.”

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-parents-set-their-kids-up-for-success-2016-4/#1-they-make-their-kids-do-chores-1

The problem of poverty and homelessness is not just a Jeffco or Colorado issue. As the author of this NY Times article points out: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/opinion/the-unaddressed-link-between-poverty-and-education.html?_r=0

“Tragically, one-fifth of American children grow up in poverty, a situation that severely limits their potential.

…the achievement gap between high- and low-income families “is roughly 30% to 40% larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier.”

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates.

Poverty and homelessness is a greater problem in Jeffco than many of us may realize. It’s not something we can shut our eyes to.   It plays a significant role in how our students do in school and shapes our communities.

As promised, here’s some information about these organizations working to help our Jeffco kids and families during these tough times.

The Action Center

(Jill Messinger, Communications Coordinator Direct: (720)-407-6686 jillm@theactioncenterco.org )

Grub Club, a program of The Action Center, works with Jeffco Schools to identify students in need in the county. Other organizations working with The Action Center to collect for this particular drive include: Jefferson County Educators Assn., ESPA, Jeffco PTA, and Stand Up for All Students.

Every two weeks the students can pick up boxes of food and hygiene products from their school counselors to help ensure they stay focused in school and don’t go hungry. The Grub Club program currently provides boxes to 88 students throughout Jefferson County.

Grub Club flyers we have shared on SJK’s website and Face Book page indicate they are working to collect enough for 1,800 boxes for students.

The Arvada Food Bank

(Sandy Martin, Executive Director -Direct Line: 720-437-6390)

As of September 2016, AFB serves 7 High Schools with snacks and some, one serving meals when they have them.  The high schools they serve are:

Arvada, Arvada West, Pomona, Ralston Valley, Standley Lake, Warren Tech North, and Wheat Ridge. They go to the school counselors who have them available for students in need.

AFB also provides Gateway to College at Front Range snacks as well. These are students who are essentially in high school and receive college credits for some of their classes as well. These kids generally don’t do well in a traditional public school setting.

The backpack program is serving weekend supplement food to 1500 children in Wheat Ridge and Arvada.

The schools are Allendale, Arvada K8, Fitzmorris, Foster, Kullerstrand, Lawrence, Parr, Peck, Pennington, Secrest, Swanson, Stevens, Weber, Vanderhoof and Head Start.

Light of the World Church (Littleton)

Food for Thought BakPak Program   (Michelle Morroni – mjmorroni@comcast.net)

LWC serves schools in the Columbine, Chatfield, and Dakota Ridge articulation areas.

Currently they provide bags of weekend food for about 200 students in 17 schools every week of the school year.

These folks work directly through the schools. Students are identified and approved to participate by the students’ parents and administration.

Golden’s Back Pack Program

http://goldenbackpack.org/chronic-childhood-hunger/

Peggy Halderman of the Golden Rotary Club started the program in 2008. What started as a small program feeding 65 students has grown into a community effort involving partnerships with the Food Bank of the Rockies, the Rotary Club of Golden, the Golden Rotary Foundation, the Golden Church of the Nazarene out of which the program operates, and the entire Golden community. It has served 450,000 meals since the beginning.

Currently, the GBP provides assistance to about 400 students in ten local/Golden schools, including Mitchell Elementary, Shelton Elementary, Pleasant View Elementary, Welchester Elementary, Kyffin Elementary, Free Horizon Montessori, Compass Montessori, Connections Learning Center, Bell Middle School and Golden High School.

 

We’ve shared information here on how students are helped throughout the school year through collaboration between these organizations and our Jeffco Public Schools. We wondered what happens when there is no school?

 

Hungry Free Colorado

http://www.hungerfreecolorado.org/hunger-free-hotline/

Hungry Free Colorado has a Food Resource Hotline. It’s a one stop place for families in need of food assistance. HFC does not do printed lists, etc. They want families to call so that they get accurate information that’s up to date. Among the many services they provide statewide, HFC’s hotline provides dates, times and locations of nearby sites participating in the statewide summer meals program for kids and teens. If you know of a family who may be need, please share this information.

Our heartfelt thanks to the people running these organizations and work so hard to meet the needs of our Jeffco students who, through no fault of their own, fall into these categories. Support Jeffco Kids is proud to have participated in the past to help both the Arvada Food Bank and The Action Center collect food and other items needed throughout the year.

Clearly, more needs exist throughout our county and we need to remember the need doesn’t stop just because school has taken a break for the summer or a holiday.

If you know of another organization running a similar program, let us know about it. We understand there is an even greater need in Lakewood that is yet to be addressed. It’s a lot of work to undertake the responsibility for running an on-going program and making sure it is sustainable, for the need only continues to grow.