As school districts around the U.S. continue to assess safety measures and make the move to in-person instruction, virtual instruction or a combination of both learning environments, families are facing the reality that the new school year will look dramatically different. Even as many classrooms transition to fulltime virtual instruction, students and teachers are still lacking the materials needed for proper development. Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger by distributing food, essentials and resources for teachers and students, looks to stand in that gap by providing important school supplies through its Teacher Store locations across the U.S.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty around the start of the fall semester and we want to ease the burden for thousands of students, teachers and parents,” said Gary Sloan, Chief Domestic Operations Officer for Feed the Children. “When Feed the Children opened its first Teacher Store location in 2010, we dedicated ourselves to providing school-age children with the educational resources needed to help break the cycle of poverty. Even with the rise of the current pandemic, our mission remains the same. It may look slightly different, but we will continue to serve our hard-working teachers as they meet their students where they are and work towards the hope of a brighter future.”
Feed the Children’s Teacher Store locations were created as a resource for educators, providing classroom resources, school supplies, books and even snacks at absolutely no cost to teachers in school districts that provide free and reduced meal rate to more than 50% of their students. With so many children and families still waiting to receive federal relief through the Pandemic EBT program, in addition to the more than 11% of the population who is still unemployed, paying for school supplies will most likely be a heavy burden for millions of families, leaving teachers to reach even deeper into their own pockets to purchase the basic items necessary for learning.
This year’s back to school list might look a lot different than in the past, combining basic school items with supplies for proper sanitation to prevent the spread of the virus. Whether a child starts the school year virtually or in-person, it is important to make sure they have the resources needed for success. In order to keep children healthy and focused on learning, Feed the Children offers the following tips on best practices for the new school year:
- Review proper handwashing techniques with students. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water is one of the best ways to mitigate the spread of the virus. It is important now more than ever that the youngest children learn and adopt this practice. It is also vital to teach them about proper use of hand sanitizer when washing hands is not possible. Feed the Children’s Teacher Store locations will be providing hand sanitizer options for classrooms during this new shopping year.
- Make sure each child has a stock of school supplies just for them. The days of sharing school supplies such as glue, scissors and markers in community projects may be gone for the future school years. Sanitizing each product after each use will be a huge undertaking. By giving each child their own supplies, you can make sure they get the materials they need and help stop the spread. Teacher Store locations will be providing those previous community supplies throughout the school year for teachers to stock up.
- Develop and maintain healthy nutritional habits for students. Boosting a child’s immune system through proper nutrition during COVID-19 can make all the difference. With poor nutrition contributing to chronic illness and a child’s ability to focus in the classroom, it is vital to make sure children are receiving snacks and meals that propel their development. Feed the Children regularly provides teachers with nutritious snacks to distribute to their students throughout the day.
Following current CDC recommendations on large gatherings and social distancing, Feed the Children’s Teacher Store locations in Oklahoma City, Okla., Elkhart, Ind., Bethlehem, Penn., and La Vergne, Tenn., have postponed reopening to after Labor Day. Upon reopening, the stores will institute new safety and sanitation procedures to ensure all patrons feel comfortable as they shop. In the meantime, Feed the Children continues to explore various ways it can reach teachers who need supplies now - outside of them visiting the physical Teacher Store locations. The nonprofit is working with community partners to deliver backpacks and school supplies to thousands of students as well as hosting pop-up Teacher Store locations while following social distancing practices with limited numbers of shoppers in attendance.