Olympic View Elementary has been a participant in our Packs for Kids program since 2012, when the Food Bank first supplied packs for 28 students. In the last three years, the program has grown substantially and now serves 88 students.
The economic demographics of the school shifted significantly after redistricting of Seattle Public Schools in 2012, so the introduction of Packs for Kids was a response to an emerging need for Olympic View students and families. Supplies are picked up at the Food Bank and delivered to the school by volunteers on Thursdays. On Fridays, parents, staff, and student volunteers spend a little over an hour making the packs and then distributing them to students to take home for the weekend.
Aiko Schaefer is a mother of one Olympic View student, former PTA president, and has a long career fighting poverty. Aiko believes the program has helped build community awareness of hunger issues and ensures that students are well-fed and ready to learn in school. She cites the “Eagle Way,” a mantra of sorts for students at Olympic View which emphasizes taking care of each other. “The kids are positive and supportive of each other and enjoy helping make the packs each Friday,” says Aiko. “It gets them thinking about community and how taking even a little time out of their day can make a big difference in others’ lives.”
The weekend packs program is helping to meet the needs of diverse, low-income families at Olympic View, where English is a second language for many. In addition to advertising “Eagle Packs” in the school newsletter, the school sent home blurbs with every student in their native language. This use of culturally appropriate outreach, Aiko believes, is what’s helped increase participation so dramatically. 20-30 kids were added to the program soon after the blurbs were sent home. Word of mouth among students has also been helpful in spreading the word about the availability of packs.
As the school nurse at Olympic View, Margaret Johanson understands the needs of students and their families and has helped compile a list of students in need of weekend packs, with the help of teacher recommendations. “Students seem happier and parents are relieved to have healthy snacks to offer their kids on the weekends,” says Margaret.
In addition to Eagle Packs, volunteers at the school have raised money for the last few years to connect students with other resources they need to thrive, such as art supplies, toiletries, and used books during holidays and summer breaks.