Team 100

Team 100 members deliver food bags to Roosevelt Elementary School on May 22.

An effort to help end hunger among Long Beach Unified School District students who receive free meals has gotten larger.

That’s because two groups — Team 100 and Food Finders — have joined hands to bring food to Title One schools, or those with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

They’re calling their group Food for Long Beach Kids, benefitting the 54,000 or so LBUSD students who live with families below the poverty level and are on the free meal program.

“It means they’re going hungry on the weekend when they aren’t at school to receive free meals,” said Kelsey Duckett, founder of Seventy Seven Enterprise, a company doing volunteer media outreach for Team 100.

“The goal is that all Title One students on the free meal program will get food,” she said.

Team 100 is a group of 100 Long Beach men who initially formed in 2011 to raise money for Volunteer Center’s Food For Kids program, which delivers food to students at Title One schools on Fridays.

Food Finders is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1989, that works with food vendors, grocery stores, restaurants and caterers to distribute donated food to other nonprofit organizations, according to its website. The group moved headquarters from Signal Hill to Lakewood earlier this week. There are about 300 volunteers and eight employees who have redistributed more than 13 million pounds of food since it began. With the move, they will be able to accommodate additional employees to grow the existing food rescue program, said Patti Larson, Food Finders’ executive director.

“Food Finders has a larger network of volunteers,” said Tom Bennett, president of Team 100. “That allows us to expand our mission to feed more.”

He also noted that the principals and staff knew which families needed help the most, since hungry children often have more difficulty learning.

“We’re helping with their education,” he said. “(Hungry) kids came back to school on Monday not being able to learn.”

To help honor the collaboration, the two groups took 40 bags of food to Roosevelt Elementary School on Friday, May 22. Each grocery-sized bag contained enough provisions for a family four to survive a weekend, he said. Items such as a box of cereal, a box of noodles, several cans of vegetables or fruit and a few other miscellaneous edibles were in each one.

“It may not look like a lot of food to some, but those families know how to make it stretch,” Bennett said.

Bennett said his team usually hand-delivered bags two or three times a year.

“We don’t always see the results of our fundraising,” Bennett said. “This way, we can.”

Food Finders was more Long Beach and food-focused than Volunteer Center, so was better aligned with Team 100’s efforts, Bennett said.

“Food Finders is the perfect partner for us,” he said.

Team 100 raises about $100,000 per year, mostly at its annual Blue Martini Ball, an invite-only event with a $75 entrance fee, Bennett said. The ball is one of the requirements for being on the team, as is donating $150 per year, bringing eight people to the ball and attending one of the group’s annual meetings, Bennett said.

Bennett said he hopes to raise $125,000 this year. It should provide more than 150,000 meals, he said. Bennett said they would serve more schools next year, since Food Finders was expanding its service from three — Grant, Lee and Roosevelt — to all LBUSD Title One schools. In years past, Volunteer Center was covering the schools Food Finders couldn’t reach.

Rosa Virrueta and her daughter, Leslie Cruz, a student at Roosevelt, received one of Team 100’s and Food Finders food bags. She stopped by Roosevelt on Friday to thank those involved.

“I lost my job,” Virrueta said. “I came to the school, told them my bad situation and they gave me the option to get a bag of food.”

For more information on Food Finders or to volunteer, visit www.foodfinders.org/. For more information on Team 100, visit team100lb.org/.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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