Donations aim to help feed kids over winter break


Franklin Hernandez, 8, eats during lunch at Broad Acres Elementary School on Dec.18, 2012 in Silver Spring. Of the 708 students at the school, 95 percent qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. (Matt McClain/For The Washington Post)
December 28, 2012

On Christmas Eve, Broad Acres Elementary School’s acting principal, Luis San Sebastian, stood by as people drove up to the Silver Spring school loaded with gifts for his students’ needy families. One woman brought five meals she had made earlier that day.

“It truly was a small miracle,” San Sebastian said.

Donors gave Broad Acres more than $1,500 in groceries and other goods after the school was highlighted in a Washington Post article about how thousands of area students who normally get free or reduced-price meals at school may go hungry during the holiday break. About 95 percent of Broad Acres’ 708 students receive subsidized meals.

Many children living in poverty depend on subsidized meals from the school cafeteria for nourishment. There are programs in the Washington area to provide meals to eligible students during the summer recess but none that functions during the winter break.

The Christmas Eve deliveries, San Sebastian said, helped make a difference to the neediest families at his school.

San Sebastian said that on Christmas Eve, people donated $1,450 worth of Giant grocery store gift cards. One family from the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring stopped by with five shopping bags stuffed with bread, cereal, pasta, peanut butter, granola bars and fruit juice.

Then there was the woman who spent the day in her kitchen preparing five holiday meals, complete with baked ham, mashed potatoes, beans, cake and bottles of nonalcoholic sparkling cider.

The donations, combined with about 150 holiday food baskets Broad Acres’ staff distributed to poor families, helped feed hundreds of of students, San Sebastian said.

Kay Campbell of Mount Pleasant, who has 4-month-old twins, wrote to The Post asking for ways she could help. She said she planned to donate money or food to a local food bank.

“I was thinking if we could run to the store and make up a couple bags of groceries to bring to a family or two that that would help make up for what appears to be a loophole in our safety net,” said Campbell, 41. “As a community, we need to be there for each other. It shouldn’t be that families and children have to go hungry at any time, but especially during the holiday season.”

Allison Anderson, development manager at the Manna food bank in Montgomery County, said similar kindness and generosity around the holidays significantly boosted donations.

Anderson said that Manna’s fundraising was up by about $4,000 compared with last year and that residents had been donating thousands of pounds of food. “We’ve been flooded with mail, and it’s actually been wonderful,” Anderson said.

She said many of the checks came from donors who had never given before. She said the amounts ranged from $5 to $10,000, the latter in an anonymous check.

“It just appeared in the mail,” Anderson said.

She said the donations have arrived at the right time, since she expects the food bank to serve about 4,000 households this month.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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