School market opens at Spring Woods Middle School
Twice a month, families are welcomed into the parent center at Spring Woods Middle School where they “shop” at no cost for fresh and canned food at the School Market.
A partnership to provide free food to Spring Branch ISD families was established this school year with the Houston Food Bank by the SWMS Communities in Schools Student Support Coordinator Elizabeth Velasquez.
“I used to work at the Houston Food Bank,” she said. “I knew I wanted to bring their resources to families in this area.”
The food is available to anyone in the community who has a need. Many of the families served at the School Market are composed of hard working single or two-adult parent units who make minimum or low pay at a variety of regular jobs, yet find themselves short on funds to cover basic necessities.
Pallets of milk, produce, cereal, meat, canned vegetables, lunch-size servings of fruit, pasta, rice, and more, are delivered by the Houston Food Bank each market day. An average of 75 families arrive twice a month at the SWMS Parent Center between 4:30 and 7 p.m. to fill up boxes with these nourishing goods.
The Food Bank encourages using student volunteers to help run the market to develop social and customer care skills, interact with clients, and to make an impact in their community. Student volunteers from the SWMS Rainbow Club, student council members and Spring Woods High School students welcome customers and are stationed at tables full of the market’s goods. They also help customers carry boxes from station to station and out to the parking lot.
“We learn to help others in our community,” said a student volunteer from the SWMS Rainbow Club. “Serving here gives us social awareness.”
“They really own it,” said Velasquez of the student volunteers. “They tell me when they have an idea about how to make the shopping experience better [for the customers].”
Velasquez shares the School Market dates and hours information with other Spring Branch ISD schools in the area so their families can also enjoy the benefits of the Food Bank partnership. To publicize each bi-monthly School Market event, families and teachers receive fliers, which are also posted at apartment complexes in the area.
Houston Food Bank delivery driver Wayne Westbrook said he delivers 35,000-40,000 pounds of food to SWMS twice a month.
“The Houston Food Bank relies on donations from Walmart, HEB, Kroger and many other supporters,” said Westbrook. “We have over 100 trucks picking up and/or delivering donations each day.”
Nothing goes to waste at the end of SWMS School Market. If supplies are not all distributed to the families who come to the parent center, surplus items are donated to a church food pantry.
“We are helping less-fortunate people and giving back to the community,” commented another student volunteer. “This teaches us to help each other, too.”