Peach's Pantry feeds hungry kids

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SIERRA VISTA — Every day there are students who show up to school hungry.

These students can get free lunch and even breakfast at Sierra Vista Unified School District schools but when it comes to the weekend, sometimes they’re mostly on their own.

So each Friday, since last semester, the district’s Public Information Officer Sarah Pacheco loads up canned soups, microwaveable meals and other food kids can easily make themselves and makes the rounds. She stops at each school nurse’s office, dropping off as many backpacks as there were kids who came forward to the nurse, asking for help.

On Friday that was just 18 students at two schools but more schools will be ready by next week, Pacheco said. She’s gotten the program, which centralizes similar programs done at some school sites, more organized over the summer and anticipates a larger demand.

Last year, on an average week, she would deliver more than 30 backpacks, she said.

If demand increases as the schools jump on board, the trick will be having enough donations to keep up. She started the program, called Peach’s Pantry, herself last year, giving up personal hours to sort food.

Thanks to some volunteers, Pacheco is not alone this year in setting up a storage room at the former site of Apache Middle School. On Wednesday, several mothers from Village Meadows Elementary School were busy cleaning, organizing and checking expiration dates.

“We just felt really bad for all the children that go without,” said Heather Lawley, one of the parents.
“We didn’t want to sit around not doing anything anymore.”

While volunteering at Village Meadows, she’s seem some of the kids who need help but didn’t know how many there are.

“I was amazed by the numbers, It’s saddening,” Lawley said.

Many of the students are identified through the district’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act program, though not all the students served under this program need extra food outside of school.

Last year there were 174 students identified as homeless, said Carol Jordahl, district homeless liaison. But this doesn’t mean they’re sleeping on the streets.

Some of these students are in foster homes, others are in and out of motels or shelters and most are living with some form of family or friends, Jordahl said. In the past, the district has had students living in substandard housing, places without basic utilities.

Unaccompanied youths can sign up for help too. These are students not living with a legal guardian due to temporary hardship, Jordahl said.

Signing up for McKinney-Vento assistance gives students access to free meals, clothes, immunizations, dental work and more. Through donations, Jordahl sometimes pays for caps and gowns for students who wouldn’t want to walk at graduation otherwise.

The goal is to make their lives as normal as possible, she said.

The Peach’s Pantry program is separate from the McKinney-Vento assistance. Pacheco never asks for the students names, she just gets a number from the school nurses.

“They’ll have kids that repeatedly come in complaining of stomach aches, because they’re hungry,” Pacheco said.

She gets the food from school drives and private donations. Pacheco asks for non-perishable foods that are easy for kids to make, like soups, pastas, peanut butter and crackers.

She’s partnered with the Education Foundation of Sierra Vista to accept monetary donations.

For more information about the program and how to help, contact Pacheco at 515-2723.

Proud US Citizen on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 1:04pm

Does Arizona Child Protective Services know that there are “children” in the
SVUSD 68 schools that have no parental supervision on the weekends, which
appears to be the reason that this program was started?……And while we’re
at it, is this “Public Information Officer” using taxpayer funded
transportation along with the expenses involved such as gas to go to every
single school in the district?……Since when did feeding students SEVEN
DAYS A WEEK become the responsibility of the taxpayers?…..I will be
inquiring come Monday with Child Protective Services!

Sumtingwong on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 1:49pm

Sure they come to school hungry, why feed them at home, when they get fed for
free at school. No meal preparation, and no cost to the parents.

Just The Three of Us on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 2:50pm

Yeah, I have to agree with the sentiments of Proud and Sumtingwong. No one is
really don’t any favors to these families. It’s not that they can’t feed
their own children, it’s that they won’t. How is it going to help long term
to teach people they simply don’t have to be responsible? If children are
being neglected/abused the school has a duty to call CPS so this kind of
abuse and neglect will end. What happens if suddenly this group or that group
just decides not to feed the kids? I’ll tell you: the kids will be stuck in a
situation that wasn’t addressed when it should have been and there will be no
one there to bail them out. If you really want to do these children a favor,
create a situation where the parents are forced to be responsible, not a
situation where they can continue to neglect their kids and don’t have to
consider the consequences of having more.

bjkbunker on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 4:16pm

As for feeding kids 7 days a week, the breakfast/lunch program is a federal
program, I believe. Helping kids have a meal over the weekend if the family
is struggling to make ends meet isn’t a bad thing.

Sumtingwong on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 7:25pm

jkbunker,get real. Not only struggling, anyone. The requirement is that you
say your hungry. Who would eat breakfast, if when you arrived at work, and
you boss asked it you were hungry, you said “yes” and he set you up a plate
of eggs, bacon, hash browns, coffee, and OJ? Who would eat at a diner, or
cook at home?

Proud US Citizen on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 8:03pm

Have to disagree with you on this, bjkbunker…..the article clearly states
that these children go to the nurse and tell her they have no food for the
weekend…..The article also very clearly states THAT NO NAMES ARE
TAKEN…..Do you wonder why?…..For exactly the reason I stated in my first
post…..CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES, who I will be in contact with first thing
on Monday…..Perhaps they will send some of their people here to all of the
schools and have a talk with the nurses…..One last point to ponder…..Does
anyone at the district know what kind of liability they are leaving the
district open to by doing this?…..Perhaps Mr. Curtis, who wrote this
article will be able to find some answers?

anya89angsqu on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 11:15pm

Most of you are not giving me any faith in the humanity of SV. Being in the
education world, you can generally tell if a child eats at home and has a
steady food source, or if they don’t. Sometimes kids will tell you they don’t
get to eat at home..or something of that nature, and sometimes they won’t.
Some kids are too embarrassed to say anything. I think this is an AWESOME
service, and we need more of this type of thing. I hope that none of you guys
bashing this service have kids and you go through a rough time…because this
service would then become your best friend. You shouldn’t blame the CHILD if
the parent isn’t providing food for them…sometimes the parents choose not
too, but it’s mostly parents going through a rough time…which most of us
have been through to some degree. So TAKE A WALK IN SOMEONE ELSE’S
SHOES…and give a little thought to helping someone out.

Proud US Citizen on Sun, 08/25/2013 - 11:59am

anya89angsqu……you obviously have no idea what the term “Duty to Report”
is….I would suggest you look it up. It appears to me, that the Public
Information Officer, along with EVERY SCHOOL NURSE who has been “not taking
names” is guilty of this…..IT IS STATE LAW!…..So now we have this
situation where multiple employees of SVUSD 68 have been BREAKING THE
LAW!…..So no, I am not about to walk in those shoes!

Sumtingwong on Sun, 08/25/2013 - 2:59pm

anya89angsqu, You said you can tell if a child eats at home and has a steady
food source. Do you feed the fat ones too?

bjkbunker on Sun, 08/25/2013 - 7:22pm

If you don’t want to be apart of it, don’t donate. Simple as that. I’m sure
that you believe that saying you are hungry is the only requirement, I’m sure
that is not the case. Instead of complaining, why don’t you go to the school
and find out about the program.

bjkbunker on Sun, 08/25/2013 - 7:35pm

We’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t see where the article says that the
children go tell the nurse they don’t have food for the weekend, but ok. I
would rather have the kids get a little to eat over the weekend then have
them go hungry, but that’s the mom in me. The article says that Pacheco
doesn’t get the names of the kids, the nurses have the names of the children
receiving the back packs at each school. If you’re not interested in helping
then don’t donate. Simple as that.

anya89angsqu on Sun, 08/25/2013 - 9:21pm

Let’s be honest. proud us citizen…you OBVIOUSLY are smarter than me
assuming that I am ignorant and don’t know about the duty to report..Don’t
assume I need to look it up. You can feed kids and report kids too. A school
nurse is bound to know the children who have a constant problem with not
getting fed at home and can talk with teachers to see if they have the same
information, or feelings about the situation…Doesn’t mean you cannot feed
them. And sumtingwong….You can tell just by talking with a child and
getting to know them about their home lives…especially when they are
younger. i said nothing about the stature of the kids.

Knight Rider on Mon, 08/26/2013 - 7:57am

This program, like many handout programs, is easily abused. I have no problem
helping those in need, but there should be some kind of verification that you
are truly in need and that you are doing something to improve your situation.
That last part is key and never taken into account. If you are unable to
provide for your family, but are sitting at home doing nothing about it, you
should be very limited in the assistance you receive. I would much rather
help out a family where the parent(s) are working fast food part time, then a
family that is doing nothing but holding out their hands.

goodmorning on Tue, 08/27/2013 - 10:25am

Too many people know how to work the system. It’s easy when you know all you
have to do is send your child to school hungry. I’m all for the program if
CPS was involved in it and would check out the homes of children that state
they have no food at home to eat over the weekend. It’s a free hand out and I
know some don’t have the food. But how many of these parents smoke, drink go
out and party buy things they don’t need knowing that they can get free food?
How many children are out there that really need it, we’ll never know. How
many kids are out there that don’t need it we’ll never know. Why because I do
believe the only way we’ll find out, have CPS involved in this program. This
is a program that you should have control over and could have control, but
seems no one want’s to. I’m for the program, but against enabling those
working the system that don’t need it. Children don’t need to pay the price
for their parents that work knows how to work the system. I’m for the
program, but….

brian on Thu, 08/29/2013 - 1:45pm

OK, Proud, it’s Thursday. What did CPS tell you when you called them on

Outtahere on Fri, 08/30/2013 - 8:15am

I’m going to assume that these families qualify for food stamps and more than
likely recieve it. I was a single mother of 3 receiving no child support. I
worked a full time job and paid 100% for rent, child care, utilities, etc. I
did NOT qualify for FS because of my income and had an empty pantries and
freezer almost all the time. Fortunately my children qualified for reduced
brk/lunch and that was their best meals of the day. At home, it was luncheon
meat, vienna sausages, ramen, hot dogs, rice.. . The families qualifying for
food stamps get their freezers/pantrys stocked every month, FREE brk/lunch,
free sacked lunches for field trips. And now FREE weekend meals???

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