March 14, 2023
For Gilles-Sweet Elementary and the PTA, advocating for all children goes beyond the school's brick walls.
In response to the reduction of emergency allotments in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Gilles-Sweet PTA and the school recently started a Food Closet to help families who may need additional food assistance.
“We’re looking for non-perishable items with a core emphasis on protein; also fruits and vegetables,” Gilles-Sweet PTA Vice President of Membership Angie Cause expressed. “We’re looking for items easy for kids to do independently. Something that there would be no added ingredients, like milk or butter, or additional things that would need to be brought.”
“If you’re a child and you’re hungry, you’re not going to learn,” Matt Krivak, principal at Gilles-Sweet Elementary. “If you’re cold, learning comes second. So, especially at the elementary level, in order for us to effectively work with children when it comes to the learning process, their basic needs must be met first.”
The PTA Food Closet program makes it easy for families to donate and request assistance. Families, of course, can make donations by dropping off items at the building. They can also conveniently purchase items on Amazon through a special Amazon Wish List and have the items delivered to Gilles-Sweet.
“We are really conscious of our time as adults,” Cause said. “If I can point, click, contribute, and not have to run to the store - and it gets delivered [to Gilles-Sweet] - it’s a no-brainer for parents to be able to participate without it causing more stress and confusion.”
“When families see those hyperlinks in the newsletter, they can just click on it, and it takes them to the Amazon app on their phone,” Krivak added. “They can see the items, click on whatever, make the purchase, and it’s done. Streamlining that process has been so helpful.”
Families needing help can also fill out a digital form in the newsletter to request food assistance.
“Now that we’ve had several weeks of stockpiling items, we have a new link in the newsletter that families who need assistance can click on, and it will take them to a Google Form,” Krivak stated. “It has dropdowns of options for what items they would like to request for food assistance.”
“Whatever they need in their household and what their wants or needs are, we will supply those first,” Cause added. “The form will go to the school counselors, and they will see what is available in our supplies. They will create a bag to send home with that student.”
Cause noted that the Food Closet has items for households with specific dietary needs, including gluten-free and vegetarian options.
The outpouring of support and donations to the Food Closet has been overwhelming. The success means that PTA could expand the program to other buildings starting next school year. Items unused by the end of the school year will be used in summer programs or donated to the Fairview Park Hunger Center.
“It’s been very positive,” Cause expressed. “We have an idea to put it in place at the middle school and high school next year, once we get the kinks ironed out here. Hopefully, we could get the same kind of contributions from parents for that as well.”
“PTA does a wonderful job of supporting students and their families but also our staff,” Krivak added. “That takes a lot to organize and to coordinate. It’s not only programs and activities that happen during the school day, but outside of it as well. And these are all volunteers. I could go on and on about things that PTA has done over the years - there’s so many things.”
Click here to make a donation to the Gilles-Sweet Elementary PTA Food Closet