In the six years that our school has partnered with Filling in the Blanks, literally hundreds of Roxbury students have benefited from their weekend food program. While most families stay in the program for years, some sign up for several months at a time to help them through a temporary crisis. We are fortunate that FITB is both generous and flexible, so that we can always immediately address our families' needs, whenever they arise and whatever they are. A recent case in point is a third-grade student we will call Josue.
Josue is a compact, dark-haired, dark-eyed boy who had always come to school with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face. One day, however, his teacher noticed that Josue was uncharacteristically downcast. When asked what was wrong, Josue said his family had been staying in a motel not far from school but had to leave because it was too expensive. He explained that all four family members had just moved across town to a less expensive motel, one with a reputation for being rather unsafe. Later that day, Josue's mother confirmed that the family lost their apartment around the holidays after the landlord refused to renew their lease. She stated that since then, she had been unable to find a suitable apartment because most were on the second or third floors, which Josue's wheelchair-bound older sister could not negotiate. The family suddenly found itself spending more money paying for the motel than they ever paid in rent.
On top of that, they had recently experienced a drop in income. Josue's mom, who cleans houses for a living, lost a couple of clients and was now only working two days a week. Josue's father was a landscaper and typically could not find much work in the winter. No one could have predicted this domino-effect of bad luck. The result was that the family was hungry, because what little money they had was being used to just keep a roof over their heads.
Connecting families to social services often takes time, but thanks to FITB's flexibility, Josue was able to enroll in the weekend food program (affectionately known as "The Backpack Club" at Roxbury) that very week. His older sister was also encouraged to sign up at Westhill, where she attends school. Fortunately, the motel room the family shared had a kitchenette so the children could heat up the bag's hearty food items such as soup, rice, beans, and macaroni and cheese. The fresh fruit, packaged milk, cereal, and snacks that are also always included do not require any cooking and could be enjoyed right out of the bag.
At this writing, Josue and his family are still working through their financial and housing hardships. However, hunger is not the pressing issue that it was because Filling in the Blanks was there for them the minute they needed food. Tina Kramer, Shawnee Knight, and all the other wonderful people at FITB never say no to us, so we in turn never need to say no when our families turn to us for help. -Roxbury Teacher