Ector Middle School’s new food pantry received a delivery of about 8,000 meals packaged by AVID students from Odessa High School.
Lisa Wyman, senior vice president of credit union development and human resources at Complex Community Federal Credit Union, said the students in the college preparation program that the credit union works with voted to give back to Ector because many had attended school there.
Due to a miscommunication, the OHS AVID students were not on hand to hand off the food boxes, but Ector Middle School students stepped in. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.
Complex Community teaches financial literacy that includes earning money, sharing money and saving money, Wyman said.
“We focus on the sharing side, but we also realize that young people don’t necessarily have financial resources so we challenge them to come up with ways they can give back without money,” Wyman added.
Some students left encouraging notes for students, others held the door open for everyone they saw and still others had lunch with a student that nobody was sitting with, she added.
“As AVID teams, they went out into their campus to try to make a difference,” Wyman said.
Complex Community Federal Credit Union President/CEO Jason Berridge said the goal is to continue the pay it forward philosophy. Berridge added that the food delivery Thursday is part of a larger event called Impact Hunger through which about 60,000 people across the credit union’s service area are fed.
In a previous interview, Ector Middle School seventh-grade reading teacher Cristina Gonzalez had the idea for the food bank after seeing a student take extra breakfast one morning.
The food will be stored in a room off one of the gyms at Ector until the pantry that’s in Gonzalez’ room is expanded this weekend. The pantry is a collaboration of the West Texas Food Bank and the community.
Gonzalez said teachers and some students have asked for food and she has put the boxes together for them.
“I make sure I put in some breakfast items, some type of protein — things that sort of match to each other,” she said.
Recently, Gonzalez said she has started making boxes every day.
“I do have two families that I do send one specifically to every week, or their neighbor comes and picks it up. For the most part, it’s just … when they ask. I make them during my lunch break, during my conference period. I often stay after school.”
She has had packing help from several people for one of her last deliveries.
Ector Middle School Associate Principal Mitch Gerig said free breakfast is served on campus daily and lunch also is served. But he added that there is no doubt a food pantry is needed on campus.
Close to 75 percent of Ector’s 1,600 students are on free and reduced price lunch, but Gerig said that figure is probably higher because he doesn’t think all parents sign up or fill out the information.
Donations are taken for the pantry and food drives are conducted school wide, Gerig said.
Pleased to have the pantry come to fruition, Gonzalez said she never expected Education Foundation founder Lorraine Perryman to sponsor the pantry like she has.
“I didn’t really think people would support it. I didn’t really know where I would come up with this food. … I didn’t have a full idea of how we could do it. It just happened. If there’s enough people that care, it happens,” Gonzalez said.
Perryman said the food pantry was a long-held dream that has been pursued by the West Texas Food Bank and Ector Middle School.
She noted that Food 2 Kids is a wonderful program for elementary schools, but once students reach middle and high school, they’re in a “food desert.”
“The opening of food pantries at Ector and Bonham are kind of pilot projects for all of the other schools. It’s just starting out great. We are delighted. This huge donation that’s coming from the Odessa High School AVID students to the students of Ector is particularly meaningful because a lot of those kids actually went to Ector, so they are donating food that will impact friends, neighbors, sometimes … even their own family members,” Perryman said.
Ector County Independent School District AVID Director Dianne Mata said this was a great learning opportunity for the OHS students. She added that they are learning lifelong skills from the credit union.