What started as a college leadership project has morphed into a community service effort that helps feed 75 Tacomans each week.
College friends Serina Clark and Chelsea Arbogast have made it their mission that no child is left hungry.
Clark and Arbogast started a little over a month ago, getting food donations from local businesses, community members and family, because they know that many students who are dependant on free and reduced lunch programs go hungry in their homes during the weekend.
So far, the duo has been able to feed 13 families - totaling 75 people - for the last four weekends. The families were identified through a partnership with a low-income Tacoma elementary school. (Because of the new and sensitive nature of the programming, administrators have requested the name of the school be left out of this article).
Clark said she started this mission to fulfill a graduation requirement at University of Washington-Tacoma, but the two say they plan to keep moving forward with their work because they know the families have come to depend on them, even after just a few short weeks.
“There is really a need, and we are helping to fill that need,” Clark said. “These children and these families are depending on us.”
No Child Left Hungry’s current format is modeled after existing “backpack” programs, where children are given bags full of food at school each Friday to take home to their families.
Counselors and principals at the school identified 13 of the families in the most need, and Clark and Arbogast hand-pack discreet black bags for the children with a personalized supply of food for their unique needs.
“We always pack a breakfast food, a loaf of bread and dry products such as pastas and canned fruits and veggies,” Clark said, noting that they pay special attention to the weight of the bags so the little ones can easily carry them home from school along with their schoolwork.
Baby food is included if there is an infant at home, while the children will also often get specials treats for the weekend, like packs of chocolate pudding and coloring books.
“I don’t want to see any child, or any person for that matter, go hungry,” Clark said.
Arbogast said the benefit of the “backpack” style food program is it is convenient for families who cannot easily make it to the regular food banks, and it eliminates some of the embarrassment children or their parents might feel taking advantage of more public options.
“The benefit is privacy, and they know it’s coming right from school,” she said.