If you were to walk onto any school campus you would be able to taste the excitement of winter break in the air. For some students, winter break means spending time with family, sleeping in, and holiday meals. However, there are students within our district that cringe at the thought of a two-week vacation from school. Not just because they won’t see their friends on a regular basis, but school is a place they have a guaranteed a meal.
The District’s Student Support Services staff serves Foster and Homeless Youth throughout Hemet Unified and found that 981 of Hemet Unified students are homeless and 329 are in foster care. Student Support Services staff wanted to do something for these students. One suggestion was to create a holiday meal for them, but they couldn’t find a place large enough. After a collective discussion, the staff decided on creating food bags for students that would last them the entire two-week break.
After coming up with the idea of the food bags, staff had to work out the logistics. Two of the staff members in Student Support Services were homeless at one point and their experience helped put staff in that mindset. They said there were times that they would have cans of food, but did not possess a can opener so they were unable to eat it. After much deliberation staff created bags full of items that do not require can openers, pots, or mixing bowls.
Tracy Piper, Director of Student Support Services, said this project has shown her how generous and caring the Hemet community is. Many community members and businesses have reached out wanting to help. In addition to food, local businesses wanted to add gifts and other resources for students. The Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians and United Way donated a wrapped gift to go into the bags for elementary students and Middle School students will find a clothing voucher from either Ross, Famous Footwear, or Marshalls. Staff from the District’s SAILS program offered to wash and collect clothing that has been in the Lost and Founds bins around the district so students can have jackets and other forms of clothing.
Thanks to the support of community members, local businesses, and Hemet Unified staff, Student Support Services believes they will be able to distribute 150 food bags the day before students go on break. Staff said there will be a special “drawing” to determine which students will receive these bags. Some families have reached out to staff asking if they are on the list and if they were they want their bag to go to someone else who may need it more. Piper said the sense of community this event has created has been amazing to witness!