While students, friends and family from all across Oklahoma supported the staff protesting at the capitol, many stayed back to support the staff at home. During the two-week walkout, the Jenks Community Food Bank was hard at work giving out hundreds of groceries to support staff and their families.
“As of [April 12th] we have fed 72 families of the support staff,” said Liz Wright, Jenks High School teacher and Food Bank Coordinator, “and I expect that number to go up this week.”
In an interview before the walkout, Wright anticipated 43 registered support staff. That’s 29 new families in just two weeks. The walkout left the support staff out of work for a long time, so they will not receive a full paycheck until May 17th because of the way Spring Break fell and then the length of the walkout– basically, staff will get half of a paycheck, half of a paycheck, and then a full paycheck mid May. Until then, many families will rely on the foodbank for some of their groceries, just as they did over the walkout.
“One day, I knew the next day we were gonna need 4500 cans of ravioli,” said Wright, “and I thought there’s no way we are going to have people bring up 4500 cans of ravioli.. I was wrong… Molly Mills [assistant principle of Jenks West intermediate] got on facebook live and did a big callout for ravioli and the cars just started rolling in. It was pretty unbelievable and a little overwhelming, but in the meantime, because I didn’t think that was going to happen, I placed a huge order with Reasors for 4500 cans of ravioli (laughing). So the foodbank is stocked with ravioli right now and will be for quite a while! And the best news is that any of the food we didn’t use is food we give out at the foodbank anyways so it was kind of a win win.”
Liz Wright and other teachers led a massive project that needed more space than the foodbank building; the Jenks High School cafeteria hosted Feed Our Trojans, a teacher-led project that distributed food to some of the 4424 Jenks students that normally rely on free and reduced school lunches.
“It was kind of like a food drive on steroids,” said Wright.
Volunteers walked down a line lunch tables, neatly stacked with thousands of food items, and filled bags of groceries to distribute at bus stops.
“We kind of overestimated the amount of people we were feeding because we didn’t have as many kids come to the bus stops.”
A lot of the kids either went to work with their parents, went to day camp, or were still at home during this time, but the Food Bank held an evening distribution that gave out 45 bags of groceries to kids who couldn’t make it during the day.
“I think it’s really important that we did think of these people because I think we could have got lost easily in the whole walk out, going to the capitol stuff, but I think it really showed how the community can come together,” said Wright.
Combined, The Food Bank and Feed Our Trojans gave out over 3000 bags of groceries, 1000 given from distribution centers and 2000 donated to churches and daycare.
To learn more about Feed Our Trojans, view “Feed Our Trojans” documentary here, filmed by Jenks’ very own Jonathan Godfrey and Jackson Cropper.
By Charlotte Suttee