GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s hard to believe that in 2019 some kids in the Capital Region are going to school hungry. But one local program is helping to fill the food gap for students during the day – one snack at a time.
Snacks can be a quick bite for kids at school. So easy to grab and go. That’s what teacher’s aide Kelly Stevens also thought until a few years ago when a hungry student opened up her eyes with a question:
“‘Mrs. Stevens, I’m hungry. Do you have a snack?'” she recalled. “‘Yeah! I’ve got a snack. What do you want?’ Go to my lunchbox, give her something. She was very grateful. The next day. ‘Mrs. Stevens, my mom still didn’t send me with a snack.’ ‘Ok, let’s go to my car.’ Get something and give it to her. Find out she’s homeless. Mom can’t even buy a thing of bread.”
Kelly shared the girl’s story with her daughter, Emma.
“She was like, ‘Do you want to help another person?’ And I was like, ‘Of course,’” Emma said.
Kelly says her daughter grabbed a ziplock bag and began packing it with snacks and drinks for the little girl for the week. Kelly posted a photo and a short story about Emma’s kind gesture.
But what happened next astounded them both.
“Instantly, within an hour I had several people within the community, ‘Hey, I got her for this week.’ ‘I got her for that week.’ The girl was covered.”
“Were you surprised?” NEWS10 ABC reporter Anya Tucker asked.
“Yes. I thought it was nice that people cared,” Emma said.
They learned other kids were in the same situation.
“You have to fuel the brain so they can sit in the classroom and learn,” Kelly said.
So she asked for more donations for the next school year. Her garage grew into a small snack warehouse.
“When she told me the story, I have to tell you, I was like, ‘Really, kids don’t have snacks?!'” said John O’Brien.
At the time, O’Brien’s grandkids were attending Kensington Road Elementary School where Kelly works. She told him about collecting snacks for the students.
“I thought of my grandkids and I said this can’t be. We have to do something,” he said.
O’Brien is president of O’Brien Insurance, but his personal mission is O’Brien’s Angels, a kind of clearinghouse connecting anyone needing things like clothes, furniture, and housing with folks who wish to donate them.
He invited Kelly to join forces with him. But first, he said they needed a logo, and that’s when “Food For Thought” was born.
“With the fruit and the vegetables in the brain,” O’Brien said. “It was, like, as soon as you saw it and the name, you knew exactly what it was.”
The next step was to enlist the help of fellow businesses, including Whiteman Chevrolet and Coopers Cave Ale Company.
“Being small business people we just get things done; there’s no red tape,” O’Brien said. “We just went out and bought snacks and put them in her hands and said, ‘Here. Give these to these kids so they’re not hungry.’”
“We started bringing like 500 snacks a month,” Kelly said. “Then all of a sudden it’s Jackson Heights, it’s Big Cross, it’s Whitehall, it’s Cambridge, and it just keeps getting bigger.”
“How many students benefit from that program?” Anya asked.
“I would say, on a daily basis, at least 25 snacks are used, and on some days more,” Kensington Road Elementary School Principal Jennifer Hayes said.
Back at Kensington Road Elementary, where that hungry student first helped inspire Food For Thought, Principal Hayes says the simple program is helping students learn.
“You wouldn’t think that they could be hungry. Or that maybe some of those kids came to school without breakfast,” she said. “It’s just nice to have that support for kids.”
“Where would you like to see Food For Thought go from here?” Anya asked.
“I would like to see all the other schools taken care of. Simple.” Kelly responded. “It [chokes me up] because kids should not be hungry. Kids should not be hungry.”
Kelly says Food For Thought now supplies snacks to 15 school districts. And the generosity of local businesses and grocery chains has helped them grow.
Click HERE for more information on Food For Thought.