Marisol Munguia has seen firsthand how much a bag of groceries can mean to a family in need.
The Give Every Child a Chance Program Director was working at the Lincoln Elementary School site on the day that the organization partners up with the Second Harvest Food Bank for the “Food for Thought” program when a simple exchange tugged at her heartstrings.
A student that had just received her bi-monthly bag of groceries called Munguia over to where she and her mother were standing, and – not knowing that Munguia spoke Spanish – began to translate a message.
“The mother said thank you for this – that this was really going to help their Christmas,” said Munguia – who splits the Program Director duties with husband Oscar. “That really made me stop and think and realize how much this program can help people.
“They are just tremendously grateful and overflowing with emotion sometimes. It’s heartwarming to see that need get met.”
Based on the number of students on free and reduced-fee lunch programs, nine of GECAC’s 13 locations qualify for the program that sends students home with grocery items twice-a-month. It’s a direct way for Second Harvest – which outfits food closets in San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties as well as some foothill communities – to make sure those who need the assistance are getting it.
Mosha Lehouillier, the GECAC site supervisor at Lincoln Elementary, says that she sees the interaction between the students and their parents when the grocery bags come in and can see a look of relief on the faces of some that might struggle between paychecks to keep food on the table.
“It’s something that you can tell are helping some families week-by-week,” she said. “It helps them when their groceries are running low or have run out, and then these students get something to eat that they wouldn’t normally have.”
The program – which has been ongoing since last year – has become quite popular with the kids themselves as well. The level of excitement rises, Munguia said, as soon as they come in and see the bags all lined up waiting for them. It also provides a built-in break from the afterschool tutoring program and allows for nutrition-based programming to resonate even more.
Students have a two-day window to come pick up their groceries, and extra bags are distributed to those who have asked in advance or are taken by staffers and dropped off at the homes of those they know can use the assistance.
“We know it’s something that helps a lot of families,” Munguia said. “We’re just glad to be able to work with Second Harvest to put this together. What they do is great, and it makes a difference.”