Hundreds of students at local schools don’t have reliable access to food, particularly on weekends, and a network of volunteer-run organizations has stepped in to assist them.
There are a number of programs in place to help students from lower income families get meals during school. Most common is the free and reduced meals program administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The federal government helps provide funding that gives children from families below a certain income threshold (this year in Seattle, for a family of four, it is an annual income of less than $46,435 for reduced price meals and $32,630 for free meals) access to breakfast and lunch every school day. Across the district, 34% of students qualify for the program.
Then the weekend comes, and that assistance dries up.
So Seattle schools have developed a patchwork of parent-run groups to help fill the gap. Typically, the programs provide needy students with a backpack full of food on Friday to help get them through the weekend, though the specifics can vary greatly by school.
At Stevens Elementary, which serves children in North Capitol Hill, the program is known as Tutu’s Pantry. Tutu’s Pantry provide backpacks on Fridays and larger boxes of food in advance of longer breaks. They also try to accommodate dietary restrictions.
It might be difficult to imagine that a school flanked by multi-million dollar homes has children in it who are food-insecure. “A lot of the families that we serve are struggling,” said Lori Bugaj, who runs Stevens’ program.