On May 29, a long-term community effort came to fruition as the Assisteens Auxiliary of Assistance League® of Long Beach distributed nearly 2,000 meal packets at Washington Middle School. The food was given to LBUSD students who receive to-go meal bags through the district's free meal service program.
An additional 3,150 meal packets were distributed at all of the other LBUSD meal service program sites on June 10. A total of 5,000 meal packets were given out, each with enough rice and beans to feed two people.
This donation marked the launch of Assisteens’ Adopt a Family Student Food Program. According to Assisteens coordinator Karen Sprague, the Assistance League® of Long Beach has been exploring opportunities to add a food program to its signature philanthropic program, Operation School Bell®. Inspired by the ideas of Assisteen Adopt a Family program mentor Shelly Barbre, Assisteens leaders organized a large-scale fund-raising effort to finance the project. Teen Kristin Berry, Chair of the Assisteens Adopt a Family Program, was integral to the entire event cycle.
“Because my role began last spring,” Berry said, “I got to start at the beginning and help plan the project and then see it through to completion, with the assembly and distribution of meal packets.”
Sprague said that between June and November 2019, Assisteens members invited family, friends, Assistance League members, and LBUSD partners to make financial donations. The teens raised a total of $10,000 to support the philanthropic pilot project. With their funding in place, the Assisteens organized a Feb. 8 meal creation event with Generosity Foods.
More than 150 Assistance League and LBUSD volunteers gathered to measure ingredients and assemble packets. Along with 69 Assisteens, the crew of volunteers included Assistance League President Penny Wilds, LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser, and LBUSD Deputy Superintendent of Schools (soon to be superintendent) Dr. Jill Baker.
“It was powerful to see so many people come together from all parts of Assistance League and LBUSD and put together meal packets for the greater good of the community,” Mina Matta, chair of the Assisteens Auxiliary, said. “We had representatives from Chapter, Rick Rackers, Las Hermanas, CAMEO, Assisteens and staff, and our Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent were even there.”
Sprague said the program was a successful partnership between the Assisteens and LBUSD. She noted that Dr. Baker personally invited Kristin and Mina to join the planning meeting and said Baker “enthusiastically offered them her encouragement and full support of Assisteens’ new food program.”
Mark Chavez, Director Nutrition Services Branch of LBUSD, expressed his gratitude for the donation and showed pride in the fact that it was coordinated by LBUSD teens.
“This project was envisioned by our very own high school students and they developed a plan of action resulting in producing 10,000 meals available for other food insecure youth and their families in Long Beach,” Chavez said. “This is another great example of how the district, students, and volunteers can come together to care for their hometown and exercise positive community service. Families that received these Assisteens’ meals were pleasantly surprised and grateful to receive additional food during a time of great uncertainty.”