Christmas songs played in the background Monday as volunteers with a nonprofit that serves at-risk students in Tarrant County filled 500 bags with nonperishable food to help keep struggling families fed over the holiday break.
Volunteers and social workers with Communities In Schools of Greater Tarrant County pitched in to bag pantry staples including peanut butter, canned vegetables, pasta, macaroni and cheese, granola bars, and breakfast cereal. There were also some holiday sides like cornbread mix, instant mashed potatoes and green beans.
We are looking for families that fall between the cracks.
Lauren Sly, vice president of Communities In Schools of Greater Tarrant County
“I think it is a privilege to be able to help people,” said Natasha Hancock, a program director with the nonprofit, which works to keep students from dropping out of school. Hancock said people often get distracted about the real meaning of the holidays.
“This kind of keeps us grounded,” Hancock said as she filled bags.
The nonprofit is part of a national network of Communities In Schools programs that serves more than 1.2 million students. The Tarrant agency serves 57 schools across nine school districts, including Azle, Crowley, Everman, Fort Worth, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Keller. The program recently joined Weatherford schools.
34,000Estimated number of students assisted by Communities In Schools of Greater Tarrant County in the past 24 years.
Lindsey Garner, chief operations officer, said the agency places social workers in schools to help at-risk students in pre-kindergarten through high school.
“Our goal is to make sure that the most at-risk students are surrounded by support and connected with community resources so they can be academically successful and remain in school.”
Volunteers will begin delivering the food this week as many area districts mark the last days before winter break, said Lauren Sly, vice president of the nonprofit.
School districts start their winter breaks at different times. For example, Azle, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Keller are on winter break starting Dec. 19, while Fort Worth and Crowley schools are in session through most of next week.
$15 Value of each bag prepared by CIS volunteers and social workers
The holiday food project was made possible through donations, said organizers. Each bag is meant to feed a family of four.
Among students who will receive the bags are those who qualify for the free and reduced federal lunch programs, homeless students, and families who are struggling economically, Sly said.
Sly said food donations help families that struggle to keep food on the table during the holidays. Also, many times young people are at home while their parents are working.
“They have to go to work,” Sly said. “The kids are off. They are going to need food to eat.”