SAN ANTONIO – The Northeast Independent School District is undertaking a unique effort to feed its families in need -- fresh food deliveries.
"This initially started to help only our homeless families, but we found in North East, there's a great need for a lot of other support, too," said NEISD Director of Family Support Services Tyler Shoesmith.
Students or their families contact school officials, letting them know they are in need of food for a variety of reasons.
"Families that are typically just overwhelmed. You know, they may have too many people living in one spot -- nine or 10 people in a two-bedroom apartment," Shoesmith said. "They're taxed to the end of their paycheck, and they don't have any more food to bring in for the family."
Sometimes families may be on the verge of eviction or may be homeless, Shoesmith said.
Many area schools provide free breakfast and lunch or after-school programs, but nights and weekends can leave some parents unable to feed their children.
Summertime can add to that uncertainty, so the NEISD Food Pantry program runs January through December.
NEISD developed a deal with the San Antonio Food Bank, which Shoesmith said took years to hash out, in order to provide families fresh foods in addition to the nonperishable items and dry goods stored in the NEISD pantry.
Shoesmith said he and his wife, who also works for NEISD, thought of the idea after seeing the positive reaction from kids being served fresh foods in schools.
"They're very surprised to see what we're able to offer, now, especially when it comes to the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables that come with the canned food and the breads and things," Shoesmith said. "We want to get them hooked on fresh vegetables and fruits so that's something they seek out."
Shoesmith shops at the food bank weekly, selecting most items for free and taking them to the NEISD Family Support Services offices to be paired with foods in the district's pantry.
The fresh foods are combined with the non-perishables and boxed up to deliver to a family in need.
On the day KSAT 12 visited the pantry, a delivery was being prepared for a Lee High School student's family after her father lost his job.
"They can go several days without food, if it's between paychecks," said Alicia Walker, the family specialist who works in the Lee High School Parent Education and Resource Center.
"We're trying to provide wrap-around support for our families," Shoesmith said. "We're trying to prevent any barriers for them from coming to school."
NEISD began delivering fresh produce and nonperishables to families at Lee High School, MacArthur High School and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them.
The district hopes to expand the program.
"Some of those things are cost-prohibitive for families. They're not able to afford those things on their own, and so to have it come into the home, it's quite special," Shoesmith said. "It's difficult to ask for help."