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Greater Tulsa Reporter


‘Feeding Our Trojans’ Supports Students, Staff

By RAEGAN DOUGHARTY
Contributing Writer

HELPING HANDS: Two volunteers at the Jenks Community Food Bank sort through various grocery items, checking expiration dates before food is distributed. The facility was buzzing with volunteers working to prepare the food for distribution.


RAEGAN DOUGHARTY for GTR Newspapers


As the Oklahoma teacher walkouts continued into their second week, a movement at Jenks Public Schools was formed to make sure that students received food to eat while school was closed. Liz Wright, organizer of the Feeding Our Trojans program, is a Jenks High School Marketing teacher and a board member at the Jenks Community Food Bank.

Wright said that there are over 4,400 students in the Jenks Public School system that “rely on school being in session to get breakfast and lunch.” These students receive either free or reduced-cost meals while at school. Students’ families depend on the breakfast and lunch that is provided by the schools.

“Our worry was, with school not being in session, they would not be eating because families can plan for things like spring break, winter break, fall break, that kind of stuff,” Wright says. “But this was not planned.”

Volunteers worked to put together bags of groceries, which were distributed twice a week at a number of bus stops for JPS.

“You can’t know who those kids were for privacy reasons,” Wright says. “So it was hard to guess how many kids at each bus stop would be needing them.”

Wright also explaines that parents were able to bring these students to the Jenks High School Dining Hall in the evenings to pick up food as well. According to the program’s webpage, food was available at the Jenks High School Dining Hall every evening of the teacher walkout. The Feeding Our Trojans webpage featured a list of the foods used in the distribution process. Items for donation included canned food such as ravioli, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, granola bars and other items.

“The community was amazing and they really came out gave us even more food than we needed, Wright says. “Any of the food that was left over, or funds that were left over, we had already earmarked that the Jenks [Community] Food Bank would get it.”

As she stood among busy volunteers of all ages sorting items at the food bank, Wright said she estimated that around 2,000 volunteer hours were put in by about 700 volunteers during the Feeding Our Trojans program. She explains that food was donated by individuals, families, businesses, churches, the Jenks Pom squad and others.

“This was something that’s never been attempted. Our the first day we realized there were kids that were already in day camps, maybe at work with their parents, and probably, most likely, home by themselves,” Wright says. “So we opened the dining hall in the evenings for them to come and be able to get the food. The parents [were able to] drive them.”

Wright says JPS staff such as bus drivers, child nutrition professionals and administrative assistants were offered food through the program throughout the month of April.

“We were also feeding the support staff that were not getting paychecks because they are hourly, Wright says. “And with us not being in school, they were not getting paid.”

These Jenks staff have the ability to receive the food regardless of whether they live within the district. Wright said about 50 families were able to benefit from the food distribution.

Regarding where the majority of Jenks teachers were, Wright said they were doing a number of activities to benefit their students during the school closure.

“I think they were either at the rallies, obviously, or were doing something like this, or they were tutoring,” Wright says. “I know there were a lot of teachers that were trying to help their students.”

Wright said that during the walk out several teachers met with students in classrooms or at school playgrounds to check out books or offer academic help.

She says her goal iss to try to also implement “backpack programs” for older students in the future. These programs would allow students on free and reduced lunch plans to receive a backpack full of snack foods every other Friday to help with getting through the weekend until school the following week.

“Some of the good things that have come out of this is now our district has a plan if there is a disaster of some sort, and we need to rally the troops so to speak, we have something kind of already in place,” Wright says.

Updated 04-30-2018

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