The Stevenson community lent its support during the pandemic to a food pantry serving families in Seaside, CA, where inside, a quote from Mother Teresa greeted patrons: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Despite the modest koan, the pantry’s reach was far and wide within the community. However, when circumstances required its closure, the School’s mission also pivoted. Faculty member Amy Spencer spearheaded a holiday food drive for the same community, collaborating with the grade 7 service class in December to support 19 local Seaside families.
Beyond the idea of inspiring students to give back to their communities, the philanthropic effort spawned many learning moments for middle division students. The class had conversations about food insecurity, and discussions about the realities of hardworking community members forced to make difficult decisions with limited resources to care for their families. Mrs. Spencer encouraged students to consider the different family sizes and situations when putting together their support packages. The group motto was “We see you,” and the donations included food, sundries, and clothing. Important discussions revolved around cultural differences here in California. For example, “What might their holiday dinner look like?” Based on these questions to help expand their perspectives, the students developed very specific lists to deliver.
From soliciting donations to campus-wide communication to finding unique resources, it was a true team effort for the class. In one example, Julianna, grade 7 student, used a connection to secure 25 boxes of posole, a soup ingredient used in traditional Mexican cuisine. The service class became project managers, as well, organizing communications, logistics, and the execution of each step in the donation process.
Preserving the dignity and anonymity of the recipients, few students had direct interactions. However, it was heartening for those who delivered the rounds of donations to witness the expressions of pure gratitude. Receiving a new book, one girl immediately sat down and began reading it. Another family was touched by the generosity, saying, “This is more than we need, so we will share it.” While 19 families were directly served, it is rewarding for the students to realize the ripple effect of their actions
To continue serving the community, the class chose three families to continue supporting with monthly donations. Twice a month students create grocery lists, buy groceries at a local grocery store, and deliver food directly to the families, many of whom do not speak English, requiring students to employ their developing Spanish-speaking skills. Brainstorming creative new ways to carry out this ongoing mission, the students are building new skill sets and developing a sense for what it means to be a force for good, with intention and thoughtfulness. Taking these first steps as students is how they will help “feed a hundred.”