It’s a story that appeals to those who invest, as well as those who give money or time because it’s the right thing to do.
Literature linked through The Sheridan Story’s website quotes studies showing that hungry children can’t learn as well as those who are “food secure.” They achieve less education, get lower-paying jobs and are less able to contribute taxes. They are more likely to be a burden on tax-supported and charitable systems.
Invest $130 per student per year in food for the weekend, the return is a fighting chance of having a professional-degreed, self-supporting family out there when the student matures.
In 2010, members of Mill City Church heard from the principal at Sheridan School, that children were taking and hoarding food from the lunchroom, a sign that they did not have enough to eat on weekends.
Church members decided to do something about it, and started The Sheridan Story. It has grown as a network to serve children at eight elementary schools, with three more to be added soon, said Executive Director Rob Williams. Monthly food packing volunteer events are full with a waiting list forming.
The Sheridan Story will benefit in part from funds raised at the SNO Ball, the annual Sheridan Neighborhood Organization event Saturday, Feb. 22.
Students at Sheridan Elementary, Waite Park Elementary, Menlo Academy, and Northeast Middle School who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the week get shelf-stable food to take home each weekend. A typical bag contains something like a can of peaches, a can of tomatoes, a tuna skillet meal, a bag of tortillas, a box of pasta shells, and two cups of apple oatmeal.
Williams explained that the food distribution method of differs by school, but they will give a kid a backpack if they don’t have one. They will leave the food in a plain plastic bag for kids who already have backpacks because it’s hard to carry more than one backpack.
Other schools in The Sheridan Story network outside of Northeast include Bethune, Bryn Mawr, and Delano elementary schools, KIPP Stand Academy, and Washburn High School. Another will be added in South Minneapolis and two in Minnetrista, where 25 percent of students are on free and reduced price lunches.
There are twelve churches (about half in Northeast, half elsewhere) and five operational partners listed on The Sheridan Story website, along with five hunger relief/community service organizations.
Williams told the Northeaster they’ve grown by word of mouth, invited in to schools by people who hear about their work. “There is need everywhere, at every school district in Minnesota. We serve 200 kids at Sheridan. Sixty-five percent of kids in the Minneapolis system are on free and reduced lunch, and Northeast is not exempt from that. North has the highest percentage, Northeast is next.”
“The Sheridan Story is not a straightforward “backpack” program,” Williams explains on the organization website. We are instead a network-focused organization that provides operational expertise and logistical management to the process of distributing a weekend’s supply of food to hungry children. Our role in the process removes many of the logistical obstacles that willing partners face when contemplating the launch of such a program. This approach has already proven to bring more partners into the fight against child hunger, and we hope to continue that trend moving forward.”
Williams said he is paid part time to do the work he started as a member of the church, which rents worship space at Sheridan. He works two ten hour days a week at a job at the company where he used to work full time. The Sheridan Story stacks up as a constant commitment, involving anything from getting supplies at Home Depot and fixing a hole in the trailer, to meeting with Cargill or writing the website.
For more information, explore the website, www.thesheridanstory.com.